Why Kasukuwere is giving Mnangagwa a torrid time

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PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa is panicking over the presidential candidature of former Zanu-PF political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere at a time his administration is battling a floundering economy ahead of the 23 August general elections.Kasukuwere was appointed commissar of the party — a position with chronicles of contrasting fortunes. His predecessors like Elliot Manyika, Border Gezi and Moven Mahachi died in mysterious car accidents at a time the party was facing internal strife, raising suspicions that their demise could have been the work of political assassins.

Variously known within the ruling party as “Tyson”, “Obama” or simply by his initials “SK”, Kasukuwere personified Zanu-PF renewal, hence was widely seen as one of the protagonists of the yesteryear faction known as G40 which lost the plot to succeed long-time leader Robert Mugabe after the military backed Mnangagwa in 2017.

For Mnangagwa, who had a wafer-thin victory over opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, Kasukuwere’s dramatic entry into the presidential race may spell doom on the Zanu-PF chief. Being a son of Mashonaland Central — one of the governing party’s perceived strongholds — the ethnic matrix may play out in favour of Kasukuwere who was both feared and loved.

Mnangagwa controversially edged Chamisa by a wafer-thin margin of 30 000 in the 2018 elections, prompting the opposition to challenge the election outcome. Chamisa lost the legal battle and still maintains that the 2018 were a sham.

In a bid to stop Kasukuwere from contesting the presidential elections, Mnangagwa and his Zanu-PF acolytes have set an individual known as Lovedale Mangwana to file an urgent High Court application seeking to nullify the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s nomination of the former cabinet minister as a presidential election candidate.

Mnangagwa is unsettled by the idea of Kasukuwere splitting the Zanu-PF vote. This week, The NewsHawks outlines why Kasukuwere’s candidature has unnerved Mnangagwa.

The X-factorKasukuwere simply needs between 50 000 and 100 000 votes from Zanu-PF’s Mashonaland provinces, where he is thought to still command some popularity, to split the vote and ruin Mnangagwa’s prospects.

Those numbers of votes are possible for Kasukuwere who was the Zanu-PF commissar and commandeered support in Mashonaland provinces, particularly in Mashonaland Central’s Mount Darwin South constituency where he was once a member of Parliament.

The post of a Zanu-PF national commissar is a powerful one and anyone who once occupied it has strong influence in the party.

A commissar presides over the structuring of branches, districts and provinces. This means Kasukuwere still has support from cells, branches, districts, provinces and other organs of the support and this would give Mnangagwa sleepless nights.

Recurrence of history of previous split votes

In 2008, former Zanu-PF finance minister Simba Makoni made a similar ex-factor effect when he prevented the late president Robert Mugabe from clinching outright victory over the late MDC icon Morgan Tsvangirai.

Makoni contested in the presidential election and garnered 8% of votes while Mugabe garnered 43% while needing 50-plus-one vote for outright victory.

Had it not been for the split vote, Makoni’s 8% therefore could have given Mugabe 51% and an outright win.

In another experience of split votes, in 2018 former MDC vice-president Thokozani Khupe prevented Chamisa from winning the presidential elections by eating into the opposition leader’s votes by 45 000 votes yet he need just above 30 000 to beat Mnangagwa.

Link with security apparatus

Kasukuwere during his time as Youth minister recruited young people from the people into the security services such as the Central Intelligence Organisation, Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Zimbabwe National Army.

In doing so, he was seen as promoting the youth empowerment programme for the party.

The young officers have since matured and gained at least 10 years’ experience and acquitted themselves in election-related matters such that they can work with Kasukuwere in his campaign.

All this gives Mnangagwa reasons to panic.

Support base in Mashonaland provinces

Mashonaland provinces consist of big numbers of registered voters. Mashonaland Central has 536 450; Mashonaland East 641 701 and Mashonaland West 661 393.

Kasukuwere therefore has a chance of amassing a significant number of these votes from Zanu-PF supporters who ordinarily would have no choice but to vote for Mnangagwa in the absence of the exiled former cabinet minister on the ballot paper.

Zanu-PF ethnic politics

Mnangagwa is also panicking over Kasukuwere’s presidential candidature because of the delicate ethnic dynamics in Zanu-PF pitting the Zezurus and the Karangas.

Mnangagwa is a Karanga and Kasukuwere a Zezuru.

Therefore, Kasukuwere is likely to woo Zanu-PF Zezuru voters from Mnangagwa and therefore again cause an upset based on these ethnic dynamics.

Mangagwa would therefore better have Kasukuwere stopped from contesting the presidential election in order to avert humiliation at the ballot box.

Sympathy from remnants of G40 faction

Another factor that is making Mnangagwa panic over Kasukuwere is the prospect that he can be voted by disgruntled Zanu-PF supporters, who are remnants of the G40 faction ousted by the November 2017 military coup.

At the time of the death of the late president Robert Mugabe, the G40 faction had already formered a splinter political party called National Patriotic Front.

The party went on to win the Kwekwe Central parliamentary seat represented by Masango “Blackman” Matambanadzo. Supporters of the splinter party may therefore back Kasukuwere, disadvantaging Mnangagwa.

There has also a cohort of disgruntled Zanu-PF supporters like Godfrey Matambanadzo who feel betrayed by Mnangagwa after fighting in his corner during the Zanu-PF succession wars; these people may choose to support Kasukuwere just to spite the President.

Trojan horse

Another school of thought views Kasukuwere as a Trojan horse working with Zanu-PF insiders fed up with Mnangagwa’s leadership. Since taking over, Mnangagwa has been blamed for his cosmetic approach to tackling corruption which has benefited his family and kinsmen.

Critics say his failure to take to task close allies implicated in Al Jazeera’s Gold Mafia documentary could have widened the fissures within the ruling party.

Views of political analystsPolitical analyst Rashweat Mukundu concurs that Mnangagwa is in panic mode over Kasukuwere.

“I think it is true that there is panic in the presidency of the ruling Zanu-PF. There is panic in view of Kasukuwere’s candidature that is seeking office of the president.

“This is a disruptive candidature which is picking up the internal politics, or issues from Zanu-PF politics in 2017. This is a candidature that is seeking to disrupt the Lacoste faction that defeated G40 in 2017.

“Mnangagwa is well aware that Kasukuwere is coming to start the factional fights and to me the anger that was displayed by the President in Gweru, in which he mentioned some, explicitly attacking his opponents calling the ‘musoro waambuya vako’, shows his anger at the developments in Zanu-PF.”

“I do not think that Kasukuwere is acting in concert with some leaders in Zanu-PF. I think there is coordination with some factions in Zanu-PF who are trying to find many ways to stop him — if not stop him, at least to demonstrate his lack of support not only in Zimbabwe but within the ruling party,” he said.

Professor of world politics at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas), Stephen Chan, however told The NewsHawks on Thursday that he doubts that Kasukuwere can cause problems for Mnangagwa in the elections. He said it was unlikely that Kasukuwere could match Makoni’s 2008 presidential election performance.

“I twice hosted Makoni at Soas. He spoke in terms of policy, and he had a team that included former Zanu-PF ministers such as Fay Chung, as well as sympathisers in high places within Zanu-PF. Right now there is no real comparison between him and Kasukuwere.

“It is however widely thought that the 2008 elections were very deliberately subject to miscounting and many of Makoni’s votes were added to Mugabe’s to ensure the need for a violent run-off. That might be a danger in 2023 — it perhaps being too visible to attempt to steal a huge number of Chamisa’s votes,” he said.

Chan added: “Popularity in one part of Zimbabwe won’t be enough to defeat Mnangagwa. Kasukuwere has no party machine, no activists. He will win some votes, to be sure, but not enough really to be a meaningful national spoiler. Zimbabwean voters are concerned about key issues like the greatly rising cost of living. Does Kasukuwere promise better policies than Mnangagwa? Both were part of the same party that has twice now led Zimbabwe to becoming first in the world in terms of inflation and economic decline.”

Who is Lovedale Mangwana and what does he want?

Lovedale Mangwana, who wants to stop Kasukuwere from contesting, is a Zanu-PF activist with close links to the Mangwana family of Information permanent secretary Nick Mangwana and Zanu-PF legal affairs secretary Paul Mangwana, senior Zanu-PF officials and resultantly to Mnangagwa himself.

He is however a front and not acting of his own volition but in the interest of a panicky Mnangagwa.

In his founding affidavit, Mangwana describes himself thus: “I am a male person of majority status and the applicant. I am a citizen of the Republic of Zimbabwe and registered voter in Ward 1, Mhondoro Ngezi. I know the facts and can swear positively to them. I tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth in this affidavit. The legal contentions I make are on the strength of the advice taken from counsel. I accept that advice. Respondents are (i) Saviour Kasukuwere (ii) Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (iii) Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and (iv) President of the Republic of Zimbabwe. All parties’ addresses for service are as indicated on the Form No 23 under which this deposition has come before the court.”

“This is an urgent court application in terms of rule 107 of the High Court Rules, 2021. I approach the court in my personal capacity on the strength of section 85 (1) (a) of the Constitution of the Republic of Zimbabwe 2013. I ask whether the court may be pleased to find and declare that: “(a) the decision of the Nomination Court sitting at Harare on 22 June 2023 to accept first respondent as duly nominated as a candidate for election to the office of President of the Republic of Zimbabwe in the general elections set to be held on 23 August 2023 is a violation of provisions of section 91 (1) (c) and (d) as read together with paragraph 1 (2) of the Fourth Schedule to the Constitution of Zimbabwe, 2013 as read further together with section 23 (3) of the Electoral Act, and “(b) that as a result of this violation, the decision is a violation of my right to an election that is not only free and fair but is conducted in accordance with the laws of Zimbabwe and to the protection of the law and is therefore a breach of my rights as set out in section 56 (1), 67 (1) (a) and 67 (3) (a) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.”

“In consequence of these findings and declarations, I ask whether the court may be pleased to set the impugned decision aside and other consequential relief.

“I have brought this matter as an urgent court application in reliance upon the provisions of the proviso to rule 59 (6) of the High Court Rules, 2021 in consideration of the fact that the relief that I crave is final in nature and not returnable. It is incapable of being sustained in the form of interim relief on a provisional order in an urgent chamber application.” “Counsel’s advice is that this procedure is permissible in this court and that there are several matters that have been determined by this court in the manner I ask. Counsel will advert to the relevant authorities in argument.”

Narrative: “I have indicated that I am aware that first respondent has been away from the republic for a period in excess of 18 months.”

“I add that this a continuous period of absence. In other words, he has been out of the republic for each day of the past 18 months. I add that this is in fact a matter of public record. I dare him to indicate otherwise. I understand that his absence from the country for that period of time has much consequence at law.

“I draw attention to provisions of section 23 (3) of the Electoral Act which enacts: “(3) A voter who is registered on the voters roll for a constituency, other than a voter who has been registered in that constituency in terms of the proviso to subsection (1), shall not be entitled to have his or her name retained on such roll if, for a continuous period of eighteen months, he or she has ceased to reside in that constituency: Provided that nothing in this subsection shall prevent his or her name from being struck off such voters roll — ”

“(a) on his or her being registered in another constituency; or (b) if he or she becomes disqualified for registration as a voter.” I submit that the absence of first respondent from the country for more than 18 consecutive months has the effect that his name ceased to be retained on the voters’ roll. I add that this occurred by operation of law.”

“I submit that the decision to accept first respondent’s nomination papers is contrary to the law set out in this provision in that first respondent, being a non-voter, cannot be nominated for election to any office.”

This is what Mangwana, who is clearly a Mnangagwa proxy or the proverbial tortoise on a lamp post, wants. His calculated political action benefits Mnangagwa more than anyone else, showing that the President is running scared.

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