THE newly-appointed ZANU-PF secretary for the commissariat, Saviour Kasukuwere has an arduous task ahead of him in the New Year, as the ruling party faces the challenge of pulling itself together in the aftermath of a bloody congress held last December which claimed the scalps of several top party bigwigs. With the next 2018 election contest on the horizon, all eyes will be on Kasukuwere, nicknamed “Tyson” because of his brash leadership style, to help restore the revolutionary party back to its glory days.
Kasukuwere’s political stock rose during the previous power-sharing government with the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formations from 2009 to 2013 when he was the youth development, indigenisation and economic empowerment minister. Under his watch, foreign-owned companies were kept on their toes as Kasukuwere relentlessly pursued the full implementation of the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act, which entails the takeover of controlling stakes in foreign-owned companies.
Kasukuwere’s tough talk and refusal to back down as foreign companies retaliated by threatening to pull out of the country, which turned out to be nothing more than pussyfooting, paid off as multi-million dollar community empowerment schemes were rolled out across the country in response to his drive for indigenisation. It is this forcefulness that ZANU-PF will be leaning heavily on from its new commissar to keep order in the party structures and steer the ruling party’s political fortunes.
By his own admission, Kasukuwere said the ultimate goal for him was to win the elections which are due in three years time. “So, the work starts now. We need to move around the country and carry out a proper assessment of all structures, then plan ahead to see what strategies we can implement to achieve another election victory,” he said.
Previous national commissars such as Webster Shamu, the late Elliot Manyika and the late Moven Mahachi were not as abrasive as Kasukuwere. The late Border Gezi, who also held the powerful post until his death in 2001 is widely seen in political circles as having been the only commissar of note since the turn of the new millennium to have run a vibrant programme of revamping ZANU-PF structures.
Gezi is credited with spearheading the formation of the national youth service programme, a key platform used to inculcate ZANU-PF values, principles and indoctrination amongst the country’s youths. According to the ZANU-PF constitution, the main functions of its commissar include, supervising activities of all organs of the party at provincial, district and branch level, formulating strategies for the implementation of the party’s political programme as well as to organise, supervise and conduct elections at all levels of the party among other duties.
The ruling party has found the going especially tough in the urban areas such as Harare and Bulawayo, where the MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai has maintained a vice-like grip, pushing ZANU-PF to dominate the peripheries and rural areas — a reality that is not lost on Kasukuwere. The Matabeleland provinces will also present a juggernaut for him, as the region has cried foul over marginalisation at the hands of ZANU-PF and the Gukurahundi killings of the mid-1980s, whose ghost may well still come back to haunt the revolutionary party in its latest bid to rejuvenate its structures.
Kasukuwere’s youthfulness may also have given him an edge and influenced his appointment by President Robert Mugabe who is in need of fresh, young and innovative ways to capture the hearts and minds of voters. In August last year, President Mugabe seemed to point at the rut which the ruling party found itself in as a result of poor leadership by Shamu, the former commissar whom he publicly berated.
President Mugabe said ZANU-PF had no reliable database of its membership among a host of other examples of internal systems collapse. “In our party, as we are looking at the organisational side, we don’t have statistics of our organic structures. We are not sure if we have organised structures in provinces,” said President Mugabe at the time.
“There is no order at party headquarters in the hiring of staff. There is a lot of individualism. Can that be a party? They employ even people who were criticising the leadership. In other words, our administration is in shambles.”
Political observers said President Mugabe’s dressing down of Shamu and Didymus Mutasa who was secretary for administration had given a glimpse of the chaos within which the ruling party’s structures was in and indirectly had placed pressure on the new successor, Kasukuwere. Before the political limelight, Kasukuwere was a member of the Central Intelligence Organisation and is known to hold vast business interests in oil, farming and tourism.
He entered into full time politics in 2000 when he became Member of Parliament for Mount Darwin. In 2005, he was appointed the deputy minister of youth development, indigenisation and economic empowerment a post he held until the formation of the unity government in 2009.
Kasukuwere’s rising political star saw him labelled as one of the “Young Turks” in the ruling party — an emerging group of young party leaders and at one time enjoyed having his name tossed around as a potential successor to President Mugabe.
Kasukuwere has been a darling among the youth empowerment outfits such as Upfumi Kuvadiki (Wealth to the young), among others, as he spearheaded youth development projects across the country. His appeal transcended local borders, with regional and international media also transfixed with his militant style and equated him to South Africa’s Julius Malema for keeping white foreign investors on their toes.
Kasukuwere is widely believed to have the backing of party bigwigs who admire his zest and ability to carry out given tasks with resilience. Presumably, he has used their support to mould himself into a political force to reckon with. He also has close ties with Jonathan Moyo, the Information Minister, who wields considerable clout in the party as a strategist and spin doctor.
Kasukuwere’s strong links with the youth whom he worked hand in glove with as the former youth development, indigenisation and economic empowerment minister are expected to come in handy as the country’s youths are likely to be the next battlefront in the election race.
Given the state of affairs, the jury will be out on Kasukuwere, who has only three years to pull in the support for ZANU-PF and promote its policies to the voters. Time will tell. Whatever the case, it is, however, certain that Kasukuwere is going to be a vital cog in ZANU-PF affairs for sometime to come.