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Jockeying for Kasukuwere’s post

By Mugove Tafirenyika

A battle for the position of national political commissar has ensued in Zanu PF even though the party is still to take a position on the incumbent, Saviour Kasukuwere, whose future hangs in the balance owing to a slew of allegations levelled against him.

Saviour Kasukuwere
Saviour Kasukuwere

For several months now, Kasukuwere has been under fire from his rivals in Zanu PF who view the garrulous politician as a potential spoiler in the race to succeed President Robert Mugabe, who is now in the twilight of his political career.

Kasukuwere is linked to a faction that goes under the moniker Generation 40 (G40) which is rabidly opposed to a rival faction (Team Lacoste)’s attempts to campaign for Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa as the next Zanu PF leader.

Despite his desire to remain in his position for as long as his people want him to, Mugabe’s presidency has become a bone of contention within and outside Zanu PF, with some of his key allies positioning themselves to take over from him in the event that he quits active politics.

In terms of the new Constitution, a president serves a maximum of two terms. Should Mugabe get re-elected in 2018; that would be his final term.

Ever since the ouster of former vice president Joice Mujuru in 2014, internal conflict in Zanu PF has cost jobs and lives through stress.

Team Lacoste is currently ratcheting up pressure on Mugabe to wield the axe on Kasukuwere.

Mnangagwa’s allies have successfully orchestrated demonstrations against him in nine provinces, raising 11 allegations, among them attempts to overthrow Mugabe.

A team established by Mugabe to probe his case has since submitted its findings to the politburo, which will soon make a determination.

But before even the jury is out, several party cadres are being tipped to take-over from Kasukuwere.

Topping the list is Webster Shamu, who was suspended from the party for two years in 2014 for backing Mujuru, who was fired from Zanu PF and government for harbouring presidential ambitions.

Shamu, who was succeeded by Kasukuwere, is among Zanu PF faithful whose suspensions were lifted after mending their ways.

Another name linked to Kasukuwere’s position is that of controversial former Zimbabwe Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) chairman Jabulani Sibanda, who was among the first casualties of the purge that claimed Mujuru’s scalp.

At one point, Sibanda had joined Mujuru’s Zimbabwe People First party, but became disillusioned with the former vice president’s leadership. He is currently lying low in his home province of Bulawayo, while also awaiting the outcome of a court case in which he is being accused of undermining Mugabe’s authority.

Zanu PF youth league secretary Kudzanai Chipanga’s name is also being thrown around after demonstrating his prowess in mobilising masses to rally behind Mugabe.

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He became Mugabe’s darling after orchestrating the “one million-man march” in May last year, and is currently organising the youth league interface meetings with the Zanu PF leader.

Many see Chipanga as being genuinely loyal to Mugabe and relatively more acceptable to both factions although he remains a divisive figure among the war veterans.

ZNLWVA, led by Christopher Mutsvangwa, has not made it a secret that the position of national political commissar should be occupied by a person with liberation war credentials.

Chipanga was about two years old when Zimbabwe won its independence from the brutal colonial regime of Ian Smith.

And yet some within Zanu PF are still putting their money on Kasukuwere remaining in his position saying the allegations levelled against him essentially constitute a political trial, which cannot be sustained in a competent court.

A report produced by the Jacob Mudenda-led probe team appears to nail Kasukuwere on some of the allegations. He was found to have interfered in provincial matters in Mashonaland Central, but referred the contentious treason charges to the state security arms for further investigations.

When the politburo sat to look into the report last week, it could not conclusively deal with Kasukuwere’s case. The supreme decision-making organ in between congresses is likely to revisit the case at its next meeting.

As the sole appointing authority, the final say rests with Mugabe. But that Mugabe is solely responsible for appointing officials into the politburo has not deterred the two contesting factions — G40 and Team Lacoste — from throwing names of their preferred candidates into the hat as they both look beyond the increasingly frail nonagenarian.

Zanu PF national spokesperson Simon Khaya-Moyo told the Daily News that only Mugabe can make a decision on Kasukuwere.

“That is not for anyone, including me, to say because we have only one appointing authority who is the president and I would not know what he is planning, which makes it difficult for me to make a comment about that,” Khaya-Moyo said.

Zanu PF insiders said despite its members rallying behind Kasukuwere in his hour of need, the G40 camp was keeping its options open.

In the event that Kasukuwere loses his position in the party, G40 will rally behind Shamu, or alternatively have Chipanga elevated from the youth league. This is meant to spite Team Lacoste, whose members are rooting for Sibanda.

Sibanda is being backed by both Team Lacoste and ZNLWVA, which started organising against him after he called some of its members “drunks and taxi drivers”.

Interestingly, despite being a war veteran, ZNLWVA is dismissive of Shamu because he previously hobnobbed with Mujuru, whose rivalry with Mnangagwa stretched many years.

Mujuru only became Mugabe’s deputy after Mnangagwa was blocked from ascending to the position ahead of Zanu PF’s elective 2004 congress, which position had become vacant following the death of Simon Muzenda in September 2003.

As fate would have it, upon her ouster in 2014, Mujuru was replaced by Mnangagwa.

ZNLWVA spokesperson Douglas Mahiya said they are against the recycling of “deadwood” in key positions.

“While we feel the position must be filled by a war veteran, we would not want a situation where dead wood is recycled: bringing the likes of Shamu back after he was sacked for backing Mujuru,” Mahiya said.

“When Kasukuwere goes, we must be allowed as war veterans to sit down and deliberate on the right candidate with the revolutionary ethos and can lead the party to victory in elections as well as making sure that the party represents the people’s aspirations,” he added.

Contacted for comment yesterday, Sibanda said he was “not speaking about politics these days,” while Chipanga and Shamu were not taking calls.

Shamu, a former member of the politburo, has since been reinstated into the central committee and is viewed as belonging to neither of the camps in the party. Daily News