Kasukuwere kept in suspense

HARARE – The politburo would have to reconvene on Wednesday next week after Zanu PF’s supreme decision-making organ outside congress could not conclusively deal with a divisive report presented by a four-member committee set up by President Robert Mugabe to investigate the conduct of the party’s national political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere.

Led by politburo member and Speaker of the National Assembly, Jacob Mudenda, the committee presented a damning report on Wednesday before a tense audience, whose contributions to the debate after the issue had been opened to the floor did very little to hide the factional leanings of the participants.

The meeting ended late into the night before members could conclusively deal with the contentious report, which was highly critical of Kasukuwere.

An extraordinary session of the politburo is now set for next week Wednesday to revisit the debate which, as previously predicted, was conducted along factional lines.

Mudenda, whose committee comprised the party’s national spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo; politburo committee member Tsitsi Muzenda and Xavier Kazizi — the national secretary for administration for the Zanu PF youth league — presented the report, which accused Kasukuwere of interfering with the operations of provincial structures.

The committee alleged in its report that the politician would sign cash receipts for Mashonaland Central, his home province, against provisions of the party constitution that gives provinces autonomy to run their affairs.

After the report had been presented, debate was opened to the floor, with Kasukuwere attempting to defend himself before Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, considered a shoo-in in the race to succeed Mugabe, interjected on a point of order.

Mnangagwa, who doubles up as the Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs minister, turned to Mugabe, reminding him that it was improper to debate the case of the accused in his presence as it could stifle free debate.

He is said to have said: “shefu zvakazotanga riini kuti musungwa anotongwa aripo (Boss, since when did we start to deliberate on the accused’s case in their presence). People will not be free to discuss the matter”.

He proceeded to ask the national political commissar to leave the meeting, but Kasukuwere only took heed after Mugabe ordered him to comply, saying “Aika vaKasukuwere, chingobudai kuti vanhu vasununguke. (Can you just go out so that people can freely express themselves).”

After Kasukuwere had left the 14th floor boardroom of the Zanu PF national headquarters in Harare to allow debate to proceed without him, there was a long period of silence with members apparently confused as to how they could tackle the debate.

It took Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister, Shuvai Mahofa, a Mnangagwa ally, to break the ice. Mahofa is said to have turned to Mugabe and said: “President, maybe you want to protect him but these people no longer want him.”

Mahofa’s statement opened floodgates of a flurry of attacks on Kasukuwere, principally led by Zanu PF secretary of transport, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri and secretary for health, Cleveria Chizema, who took turns to savage him.

Chizema and Muchinguri-Kashiri are allies of Mnangangwa.

Kasukuwere got support from Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko who told the meeting that he was being victimised by Mnangagwa’s allies for factional reasons. Defence minister, Sydney Sekeramayi, is also said to have spiritedly leapt to Kasukuwre’s defence.

Both Mphoko and Sekeramayi have lately been fighting in Kasukuwere’s corner.

Because the meeting ended inconclusively, debate was deferred to next Wednesday when an extraordinary politburo meeting would be held to specifically deal with it.

Kasukuwere is therefore likely to miss next week’s politburo meeting until debate into the report has been finalised.

Nine out of ten party provinces have petitioned Zanu PF’s highest decision-making body outside congress to demote the Local Government minister on allegations of being divisive and creating parallel structures with the aim of removing the incumbent from power.

The allegations — which torched countrywide street protests — resulted in Mugabe dispatching a fact-finding mission to Kasukuwere’s home province of Mashonaland Central where the upheavals started.

While Khaya Moyo told reporters after the meeting that Kasukuwere’s case never came under discussion at the meeting, Mudenda confirmed tabling his report yesterday although he declined to shed more light on his presentation, preferring to refer questions back to the information secretary.

“I have since done my part, so you better talk to Cde SK Moyo,” Mudenda said.

The tug-of-war over Kasukuwere has become the new frontier for the on-going terminal succession war.

The Mt Darwin South legislator is believed to belong to a grouping commonly referred to as Generation 40 (G40), which is in political combat with a rival faction called Team Lacoste.

Team Lacoste is linked to Mnangagwa, for long thought to be Mugabe’s heir apparent.

Mnangagwa’s presidential bid, which he denies, faces resistance from G40, which claims loyalty to the incumbent.

Of late, another politburo member, Sekeramayi has had his name thrown into the succession debate, although the Defence minister denies interest in the top office.

Mnangagwa is backed mostly by party veterans who participated in the liberation war, while G4O draws its backing from young Turks.

As the sole appointing authority in Zanu PF, Kasukuwere’s fate lies with Mugabe, who is currently caught between a rock and a hard place as he tries to balance the factional interests playing out in his party.

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.

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 Local Government minister.

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