Kasukuwere saga: Mugabe to play balancing act

HARARE - The ruling Zanu PF party’s supreme decision-making organ in between congresses, the politburo, meets in Harare today for another crunch meeting that could end the uncertainty surrounding Saviour Kasukuwere’s future as the revolutionary party’s national political commissar.

The 47-year-old Mount Darwin legislator goes into today’s potentially explosive meeting unsure whether he will keep his job, which he assumed only three years ago.

Kasukuwere has been skating on thin ice ever since an insurrection against his leadership broke out in his home province of Mashonaland Central, with eight other regions throwing their weight behind calls for his ouster.

Those baying for his blood accuse the party’s chief organiser and strategist of plotting a bloodless coup against the Zanu PF leader; causing mayhem in the party by interfering with party structures and imposing leaders at various levels.

Also under fire is his brother Dickson Mafios, who is the acting Zanu PF chairperson for Mashonaland Central — a ruling party stronghold.

Kasukuwere has his sympathisers as well, who have formed his rearguard, including Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko who believe that the brouhaha was being sponsored by a rival faction out to decimate President Robert Mugabe’s foot soldiers before launching a final assault for the high pressure job.

In a bid to resolve the impasse, Mugabe set up a committee led by politburo member, Jacob Mudenda, to get to the bottom of the standoff and recommend a way forward. The committee has since finalised its report, which will be tabled at today’s crunch meeting.

Zanu PF insiders said the report could be debated along factional lines hence Mugabe would, in the final analyses, be forced to take a stand.

The ruling party is dominated by two factions namely Generation 40 (G40), which is sympathetic to Kasukuwere, and Team Lacoste, which has been sharpening its knives, ready to finish off the embattled political commissar.

Analysts said the Zanu PF leader is caught between a rock and a hard place as he tries to balance the factional interests playing out in his party.

Political analyst, Ibbo Mandaza, believes that Mugabe may not act on Kasukuwere.

He said: “I am not sure if anything will be done; he thrives on chaos and confusion”.

In the past, Mugabe has succeeded in keeping his party together by playing a delicate power-play whereby none of the warring factions would be allowed to annihilate the other because that would also compromise his position in the party and government.

The only time he varied this principle was in 2014 when he cut loose a faction linked to former vice president Joice Mujuru, but it was not long before the Team Lacoste faction, which had emerged victorious found another rival in the form of G40.

It would, however, appear that Mugabe has three options available. The first one would be to buy time by not passing a verdict on this emotive matter in order to allow tampers to cool down, while he contemplates his next move.

In all his speeches, he has been calling on his lieutenants to bury the hatchet in order to confront their rivals at the next elections in 2018 as a united force. This could be the clearest hint that the crafty nationalist may not want to rock the boat at this critical juncture.

The least of his options would be to kick out the swashbuckling Kasukuwere as that would create a rift in his party, especially in the Mashonaland provinces, where the national political commissar enjoys some political stamina.

Analysts intimated this week that Mugabe may also be forced to re-assign Kasukuwere, while making sure that his successor will not tilt the scales in favour of a rival camp, which has been calling for a replacement with liberation war credentials.

The basis for a possible re-assignment would be that Kasukuwere may not continue to be effective in his current position since the majority of the 10 political provinces no longer have confidence in him.

Already, several names are being bandied around as his possible successors, including his predecessor, Webster Shamu, and Kudzai Chipanga, the current Zanu PF youth league secretary.

There is also speculation that this could cause a roots-and-branch shake-up in both the party and government that might see Kasukuwere being moved to another ministry.

He is currently the Mmnister of Local Government.

“He (Kasukuwere) will definitely be compelled to do something but the question is what action he will take? I don’t think he will boot out Kasukuwere, the worst he can do is to redeploy him to a position that is acceptable to those who are demanding a harsher penalty,” said University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure.

“There may be a minor reshuffling that could be triggered by Kasukuwere’s redeployment. He has been found unacceptable by nine out of 10 provinces and that will force the president to act . . . It cannot be ruled out that he will be kept in his position but that is unlikely as that could prove that Mugabe has lost his Machiavellian touch. The party needs a robust commissar and Mugabe knows that.

“The timing is critical here; Mujuru was expelled after the elections, which is the best way that does not diminish the party’s position to win elections. This is a pivotal time for Zanu PF. He (Mugabe) will not be drastic as was the case with others,” added Masunungure.

The politburo is also set to hear submissions by the Bulawayo province on the unprecedented orgy of intra-party violence that occurred last month at the Davies Hall.

Also to be heard is an appeal by Mutero Masanganise who lost the Masvingo provincial chairmanship poll rerun to Ezra Chadzamira, a Team Lacoste protégé, despite having pulled out of the race days before polling.

Masanganise — who is linked to the G40 faction, which in turn is opposed to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa succeeding Mugabe — pulled out of the Masvingo poll re-run arguing that it was illegal.

Mugabe and the politburo had nullified the results from the initial regional poll, which was won by Chadzamira — amid claims of irregularities, including people not voting in some districts.

Chadzamira, who is the former regional chairperson, crushed Masanganise then — polling 12 393 votes against his opponent’s 4 888, amid allegations of rigging and failure by people in Mwenezi and some parts of Chiredzi to vote.

Analysts said factionalism will continue to haunt Zanu PF until it has dealt with the succession question.

The 93-year-old has studiously refused to name a successor, insisting that the party’s congress has that mandate: to choose a person of their own choice.

“There will be no closure until the explosive issue of who will succeed Mugabe will be decided. There is only one way these fights will stop, until that issue is settled with finality the troubles in Zanu PF will continue and we are likely to see the intensification of those problems, they will not go away easily,” said Masunungure.

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