Explosive politburo as factions face off over Kasukuwere

HARARE - Allies of Saviour Kasukuwere put up a spirited defence on Wednesday to prevent the politburo from referring the embattled Zanu PF national political commissar’s case for further investigations by State security agents who are seen as more sympathetic to their rivals, the Daily News heard yesterday.

Going into the eagerly-awaited indaba with their backs against the wall after a probe team led by politburo member Jacob Mudenda had established a prima facie case against Kasukuwere on the lesser charges, Kasukuwere’s allies took off the gloves on Wednesday in their defence of the Mount Darwin legislator, who is facing nearly a dozen allegations.

He had been found guilty of interfering with the provincial structures in Mashonaland Central, where Kasukuwere has assumed some godfather status of sorts, and over-stretching himself in the running of its finances, but the committee proceeded to recommend that the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) looks into the treason charge, citing its lack of capacity to handle complex investigations.

Zanu PF insiders said the meeting was a nail-biting affair during which tampers ran high and barbs traded in spite of the presence of politburo chair, President Robert Mugabe, who has steered clear of taking sides ever since knives were sharpened against his appointee.

It was, however, members aligned to the Generation 40 (G40) faction who got the better of their Team Lacoste rivals when the tense politburo meeting resolved to escalate Kasukuwere’s case to the presidium, made up of Mugabe and his two deputies — Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko — instead of referring it to the CIO.

As we reported last week, Kasukuwere was not part of the meeting, as he had been asked to recuse himself to allow for free debate. Before the meeting on Wednesday, he had a tête-à-tête with First Lady, Grace Mugabe, at the party headquarters, whose details were not disclosed to the media.

Highly-placed sources told the Daily News that Kasukuwere’s allies suffered a major setback when the politburo shot down their request to allow the Mount Darwin legislator to present what they claimed to be video and audience evidence to bolster his defence.

In fact, it was Ignatius Chombo, the party’s secretary for administration, who had urged politburo members to allow Kasukuwere to attend the meeting but met no luck after Mnangagwa reasoned that Zanu PF could not disregard its constitution, which prohibited accused members from attending hearings that concern them.

This was denied on account that Kasukuwere, his half-brother Dickson Mafios and Wonder Mashange, should have produced their evidence before Mudenda and his committee which included national spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo; politburo committee member Tsitsi Muzenda and Xavier Kazizi — the national secretary for administration for the Zanu PF youth league, visited Mashonaland Central on their fact-finding mission.

Zanu PF secretary for security Kembo Mohadi, along with the party secretary for economic affairs, Obert Mpofu, leapt to Mudenda’s defence, arguing strongly against the use of video and audio recordings saying members did not “come to the politburo to watch TV”.

Mafios is the interim chairman for Mashonaland Central while Mashange is the provincial secretary for administration. Both are accessories to the charges levelled against Kasukuwere.

The Daily News can reveal that the purported evidence wanted to establish the involvement of former vice president Joice Mujuru’s acolytes as well as serving soldiers disguised in civilian clothing in the demonstrations against Kasukuwere in Bindura.

Mujuru was given her marching orders from Zanu PF in 2014 on similar charges of plotting to remove Mugabe from power unconstitutionally.

Kasukuwere’s allies, Moyo and Mphoko, in particular, leapt to his defence, arguing that the national political commissar was a victim of growing impatience by his foes who want to position Mnangagwa to succeed Mugabe.

After Moyo threatened to produce evidence against Mnangagwa, the secretary for Transport Oppah Muchinguri, an ally of the vice president, countered saying she also had video and audio evidence of how the G40 plotted against Mugabe.

Kasukuwere’s allied had also tried to drag Mnangagwa into his case but this was dismissed by Mugabe, who ruled them out of order on account that the indaba was not about the vice president. He said they were free to raise their issues at the next politburo meeting.

As the drama unfolded Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi, who of late has emerged as a dark horse to succeed Mugabe, remained quiet throughout the deliberations.

G40 apparatchiks also went for Mudenda in a bid to discredit his report. He was accused of having been part of the Tsholotsho declaration in 2004 that sought to catapult Mnangagwa into the presidium, but was blocked when Mugabe elevated Mujuru ahead of him.

Six provincial chairmen had to be suspended for being part of the unsanctioned meeting, including Mudenda, and Moyo himself, who was said to be the meeting’s chief organiser as it was held at Dinyane School in his Tsholotsho constituency.

Moyo, a political turncoat, had to break ranks with his colleagues in Zanu PF after attempts by the party to stop him from contesting elections in 2005. He only bounced back in 2009 at the invitation of Zanu PF.

Moyo had even tried to poke holes into a petition against Kasukuwere saying the Provincial Coordinating Committee (PCC) that authored it, did not constitute a quorum.

Mudenda stood by his report, dismissing Moyo saying he had no locus standi to rubbish his report when he was not there when his team gathered the evidence. Mugabe also dismissed attempts to discrete the petition, saying it was not about the constitutionality or otherwise of the PCC but the ordinary people.

His report even accused Kasukuwere of engaging in corrupt activities, saying his committee had found evidence in form of bank receipts showing he signed for cash withdrawals from the province’s bank account.

Mudenda further said Kasukuwere has created shadow Members of Parliament in all constituencies with sitting legislators perceived to be members of Mnangagwa’s faction.

He also attached a letter which was reportedly written by members of the Zanu PF youth league, accusing him of imposing Mtehlabayo Malinga as deputy national secretary for youth affairs, against the will of the youths who had preferred an unnamed female official.

The post had fallen vacant following the elevation of Kudzanai Chipanga who had replaced Pupurai Togarepi as youth league boss.

The committee had also 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.

Part of the document that Kasukuwere’s allies had hoped to present on Wednesday had raised counter allegations that Team Lacoste was operating shadow structures in some of the provinces, which orchestrated the demonstrations against Kasukuwere.

As the sole appointing authority in Zanu PF, Kasukuwere’s fate lies with Mugabe, who has the veto power given that his deputies are in different camps.

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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