'Tyson' returns

HARARE - Former Zanu PF national political commissar and ex-senior Cabinet minister, Saviour Kasukuwere, returned to Zimbabwe yesterday — ending his six months in exile that began in November last year following the dramatic ouster from power of former president Robert Mugabe.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with the Daily News, a relaxed Kasukuwere said he was happy to be back home, and looked forward to being with his family, attending to his businesses and completing his legal studies at the University of Zimbabwe.

He also put paid to allegations that he may be angling to lead the fledgling National Patriotic Front (NPF) that is closely linked to the Mugabes — saying “the claims were not worthy of his comment”.

“I can’t tell you how happy I’m to be back and to be with my family, both close and extended. It really is a great feeling that no words can adequately capture,” he said.

Asked what his plans were and whether he held no fears of the new dispensation, Kasukuwere said he had “no fears of anything, whatsoever”.

“I am a proud Zimbabwean with nothing to hide. The Constitution of our country also protects all its citizen and I am one of them.

“For the record, I’ve done nothing wrong either now or in my past to warrant me being fearful. All I have ever wished for, for our country and its people is the very best,” he said.

Upon arrival at the Robert Mugabe International Airport, Kasukuwere was detained by State security operatives who questioned him for more than an hour before releasing him.

As he emerged from the airport, a group of Zanu PF activists, led by the provincial youth league leader Godwin Gomwe shouted “thug, thug” while some said he should be arrested.

But he only returned a smile and went on to a waiting Mercedes Benz that quickly whisked him away.

Kasukuwere was accompanied by his wife, Barbara, who had to endure an anxious wait while operatives grilled her husband.

A former State security operative, Kasukuwere is said to have built a significant business empire before he went into politics full time.

He was elected legislator for Mt Darwin in 2000 and joined Cabinet in 2005, initially as deputy minister of Youth, before becoming the substantive minister for that ministry and later leading the Empowerment, Environment and Local Government portfolios.

After the ruling party’s hotly-contested “elective” conference of 2014, he was appointed to the powerful position of Zanu PF national political commissar — which put him among the party’s top five bigwigs.

Kasukuwere fled into exile late last year— together with other former Zanu PF bigwigs that include former Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo and Mugabe’s nephew Patrick Zhuwao — following the nonagenarian’s stunning fall from power.

The trio was at the time identified as some of the kingpins of the ruling party’s Generation 40 (G40) faction which had coalesced around Mugabe and his wife Grace.

Until then, the G40 was locked in a brutal war of attrition with Mnangagwa and his supporters for the control of both Zanu PF and the country.

Zhuwao recently launched a surprise attack on Kasukuwere, which was prompted by unconfirmed reports that the former Local Government minister was negotiating with Mnangagwa and his inner circle for his return to Zimbabwe.

Mugabe’s loose-tongued nephew claimed that there were reports that the country’s new political dispensation was “incubating the establishment of a copy-cat to the National Patriotic Front, to be called the ZNPF in an effort to derail the real NPF.

“The reports indicate that this copy-cat ZNPF junta project will seek to hijack the membership of the real NPF and subsume them under the leadership of Saviour Kasukuwere,” he added.

But Kasukuwere, who until this past weekend had not publicly commented on local politics since the stunning fall of Mugabe last year, emphatically pooh-poohed the claims.

“While I obviously don’t wish to be drawn into unproductive debates, this claim is simply devoid of any truth, and I will leave it there. Let those with ears listen carefully,” he said yesterday.

When Zhuwao made his claim, well-placed sources close to Kasukuwere also told the Daily News that everything that was being said and written about him were “pathetic attempts to sully his name and jeopardise his chances of returning to Zimbabwe”.

“It’s plain silly that Zhuwao is accusing Tyson (Kasukuwere) of supping with the devil by negotiating for his return home. Aren’t Mugabe and Grace nicely ensconced here at home, and so what is wrong with Tyson wanting to come back?

“We also know for certain that these characters attacking Tyson do not only fear him as a politician, but also want to draw him into their personal wars.

“The hard fact though is that he won’t dignify this nonsense by these nonentities by responding to their malicious attacks ... just leave him alone please,” one of Kasukuwere’s allies said then.

Responding to reports that his decision to return was informed by the fact that he had negotiated his safe return through his alleged links with Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, Kasukuwere scoffed at the suggestion in an interview with South Africa’s Sunday Times, saying if that were the case he would have long returned home.

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