Firebrand Zanu (PF) national political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere, has plunged the strife-torn organisation into another crisis as sharp differences have emerged over his attempts to restructure the fractured ruling party.
President Robert Mugabe, now back from holiday, tasked the Mount Darwin South legislator with the tricky task of revitalising the party, which is now more divided than ever before. In an attempt to exorcise the ghost of factionalism that has ravaged the party for many years, the movers and shakers of the revival process set in motion around last September by Grace Mugabe, President Mugabe’s wife, have left a trail of broken souls in Zanu (PF), which Kasukuwere is now trying to deal with.
Joice Mujuru, who had been tipped to succeed the incumbent, was reduced to an ordinary card-carrying member along with Didymus Mutasa — the party’s former secretary for administration — after they were linked to a plot to illegally remove President Mugabe from power. Also to fall from grace was Rugare Gumbo, the former party spokesman, who was fired from ZANU-PF together with Jabulani Sibanda, leader of the war veterans from 2003 until his dismissal last October.
Most of the party’s provinces were left under the control of interim executives after the previous administrators were shown the exits through votes of no confidence. In a bid to put in place substantive executives in the affected provinces and re-align other lower structures of the party, Kasukuwere has touched a raw nerve.
Zanu(PF)insiders revealed that the national political commissar has met resistance from perceived remnants of a faction linked to Mujuru, the former vice president. Mutasa, seen as the face of the resistance, is currently leading a group of disgruntled Zanu(PF) members who will soon pursue a court application, challenging the legality of the processes that led to their unceremonious demotion.
Apart from the pending court action, the group is employing different strategies, ranging from diversionary tactics to use of decoys or proxies to try and worm their way back into leadership positions. In attempting to get rid of perceived Mujuru allies, Kasukuwere has run into a bigger problem.
There is now lack of enthusiasm to embrace the process from some of the people who worked closely with Kasukuwere and others in deposing Mujuru and her cabal amid suspicions that he could be putting his personal interests first ahead of those of the party.
Kasukuwere is being accused of positioning his proxies through the restructuring, raising suspicions that factionalism, which many thought would end with Mujuru’s ouster, could rear its ugly head once again. What has complicating matters is that the Environment Minister was one of the so-called young Turks who were rumoured to be harbouring ambitions to succeed ZANU-PF’s former guerrilla leader.
Indications are that Kasukuwere would be taken to task once the Politburo, Zanu(PF)’s highest decision-making organ in between congresses, starts sitting. It hasn’t been sitting due to President Mugabe’s absence. But so fierce is the resistance that Kasukuwere is said to be fearing for his life. The combative legislator, according to sources, is making good use of his intelligence skills and networks, since he once worked for the President’s Office, to avoid being predictable in his day to day activities.
He has also surrounded himself with his most trusted lieutenants, who trail him wherever he goes in order to give him protection. To avoid alerting his nemesis beforehand, he has been refusing to share his itinerary, an indication that he could, indeed, be fearing for his life.
Kasukuwere inherited his post from Webster Shamu — a victim of the political tsunami that hit ZANU-PF ahead of its congress — whom President Mugabe felt had performed dismally. The job is viewed in Zanu(PF) as a high-risk assignment, a perception which was not helped by a series of misfortunes that came upon some of its previous holders.
Shamu’s predecessor, Elliot Manyika, died in a suspicious road accident in December 2008, aged 53, while travelling to Gwanda. Manyika had inherited the post from Border Gezi, who was also killed in a road accident when his car skidded off the Harare-Masvingo road and crashed in April 2001.
Contacted for comment this week, Kasukuwere, said he has no reason to be afraid as he was just doing his job. “I am just carrying out the mandate I was given by the President as usual. I have not reneged from my duties,” he said. Kasukuwere started re-organising the party this month to ensure all its structures are aligned to the new thinking of those appointed to lead the party until its next congress in 2019.
His first port of call was Mashonaland East — seen as the epicentre of factionalism in ZANU-PF. The ZANU-PF Politburo member has already caused a stir in Mashonaland East after disbanding its provincial leadership, and replacing it with an interim executive to run the affairs of the province until fresh elections in April.
ZANU-PF insiders said the development ran against a resolution passed at congress, mandating the party’s national elections directorate manage internal elections. The directorate is still to be established. His next port of call is likely to be Harare, followed by the three Matabeleland provinces. Informed by the Mashonaland East incident, other provinces have started to put measures to guard their turf.
Kasukuwere was adamant this week that there were no ulterior motives influencing the restructuring other than the desire to strengthen ZANU-PF. He said: “I am reviving structures sorely for the benefit of the party. I have no reason to be afraid. Death comes to everyone. It is the natural course of life, so nothing should prevent us from doing our work whilst we are still alive.”
Already, he has had to attend to some problems in Manicaland, Masvingo and Matabeleland North, reversing post congress suspensions that took place there. This has not gone down well with some members of a faction linked to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, which wants a new order to prevail throughout ZANU-PF structures.
Kasukuwere’s approach has therefore led them to question his motives. “It was a very bad start for him to disband the Mashonaland East executive if he is serious by saying he would rebuild the party,” said one senior ZANU-PF official who declined to be named.
“The interim executive was mainly picked from a pool of close associates and one of them is Charity Manyeruke who was his lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe,” the official added.