Kasukuwere: Learnt nothing, forgot nothing

As Tyson sees his Presidential ambitions dim and has to make difficult choices, he is caught in exactly the same place he was four years ago…

Tichaona Zindoga

Saviour Kasukuwere, a former Cabinet Minister and Presidential aspirant in this year’s elections, was last week barred from contesting the August 23 polls.

Kasukuwere was planning to run as independent, and following the ruling by the Supreme Court dismissing his candidature last Friday, finds his prospects pretty dim.

He is now pondering his next moves.

A press conference held in the capital by his campaign team fronted by Jimu Kunaka indicated, to all intents and purposes, that they would consider the violence route to force his name onto the ballot paper. Which is as dubious, yet dangerous, claim as we shall demonstrate.

I am writing this article for two major reasons.

The first one is that the situation Kasukuwere finds himself in is a sort of deja vu – and in my assessment – Kasukuwere has learned nothing and forgot nothing from a similar situation four years ago.

The deja vu applies to myself as well.

Sometimes in October 2019, while touring South Africa at the invitation of a financial services company that was launching an e-commerce concept, I met Kasukuwere at a hotel in Sandton.

I was a journalist and Acting Editor of The Herald then, and it is important to set the record straight regarding this encounter that made so much noise for different reasons: Our meeting had not been pre-planned, and was virtually a “catch-up” initiated by myself, as an influential journalist, with a self-exiled, prominent individual of the Mugabe era.

The Mugabe era had been ended by the military intervention of November 2017, with the veteran leader having run the country for an age-defying 37 years since independence from Britain in 1980.

Kasukuwere is someone I had begun speaking to, and interacting with, for some years prior. He had been Minister of Youth and Indigenisation, Minister of Environment and Minister of Local Government as well as national political commissar of the ruling Zanu-PF party.

I had first met him personally at a seminar at Sapes Trust in Harare, where Professor Jonathan Moyo, pointed him to my direction by way of some introduction. They were accompanied by Priscilla Misihairabwi Mushonga on that day.

Kasukuwere and I agreed a lot on an ideological level, and especially on the Indigenisation concept, and our reverence of the former President Mugabe, in an era where Mugabe’s political halo engulfed the nation, albeit evanescing.

In this referenced period of Mugabe’s evanescence, Kasukuwere, Moyo and others were rising and beginning to imagine themselves, and also largely considered, to be the future of Zanu-PF; following which was the popularisation of the term G40 or Generation 40 – subject of at least two major articles that Moyo had written from as early as 2011.

Moyo said the term was a demographic construct, although it later stuck as a reference to a faction involving not just Kasukuwere and Moyo, but also Patrick Zhuwao, Mandi Chimene, Sarah Mahoka, Kudzai Chipanga, and others.

In all my interactions with Kasukuwere throughout the period before and after the November 2017 operation, we agreed on a number of fundamental ways around Mugabe and the Indigenisation drive; noted above, but sharply disagreed on his role and future in Zimbabwe politics in the context of succession.

In the few interactions that we had on the same subject – such as coming from a rally in My Darwin in his car after lunch at his mother’s homestead; or a meeting in China in 2016 where I went to see him at his hotel upon learning that he too was in Beijing (as Local Government Minister) – our disagreements revolved around his (and his group’s) political prospects vis a vis the “old guard” in the party comprising of the likes of Emmerson Mnangagwa, then rumoured as the leader of another faction in the ruling party.

My view of the battle between the so-called old guard and the G40 – also known as Young Turks in general, and Kasukuwere, in particular, was that the younger generation ought to bide their time, respect and let the older generation run its race; meaning that Kasukuwere himself as a forerunner or ambitious young bull had to wait for his turn after Mnangagwa.

Tyson, as he is known, disagreed. Strongly.

Mnangagwa was Vice President then, Mugabe’s deputy.

I have a strong reason to believe that Kasukuwere believed I was a member or even an agent of the Mnangagwa faction, which came to be known as Lacoste.

Equally, from my understanding, the same Lacoste branded me a G40 from what I gathered at the time.
It put me in a strange position, which I had not actually understood, much less appreciated.

For the sake of clarity and completeness, I was never recruited by anyone, neither did I ever participate in any factional meeting or scheme. I understand that at that time, factionalism was rife, and some journalists were part of the factions and their strategising.

These are some journalists that gratuitously labelled others G40 or Lacoste either for sport or personal gain depending on where they stood, or whom they wanted to curry favour with.

Not me.

I was, and remained alone, often acting on my beliefs and hunches, sometimes stupidly and blindly so; a defect, perhaps, for someone who was considered an influential journalist at the time and editor at the State-run media.
But I was innocent: whoever claimed me or to be served by me was just taking advantage of my disposition and strong and clear stance on certain issues.

Like supporting Mugabe and concepts such as land reform, or indigenisation.

Later on, I would adopt a clear stance against President Mugabe and his wife Grace, and the so-called G40 over their brand of politics, ambitions and the direction that they were taking the country.

I remember drawing sharp rebuke initially from Kasukuwere and Moyo over objecting to “Munhu Wese Kuna Amai” slogan, which had been coined to pave way for Grace Mugabe’s ascendency. In an article in The Herald, I questioned why and how it would be appropriate to follow Grace – the Amai in question – while Baba (the Father) was still there.
Moyo labelled me a “successionist” for thinking that way, something that referred to the other faction, which had begun making strong, noisy objections through the war veterans.

The die had been cast.

Ironically, but not unexpectedly, I became “Lacoste” without anyone ever recruiting or introducing, orienting or advising me.

By the time November 2017 happened, I must have been unknowingly appropriated by the faction calling itself Lacoste and its supporters, due to my principled disagreements with the G40 as a faction around former President Mugabe and his wife Grace.

***

Post-November 2017, in the above referenced October 2019 “catch up” meeting, Kasukuwere and I again found ourselves discussing his ambitions – now severely curtailed by the events of the military assisted transition- as he was now self-exiled.

In our meeting at a glitzy hotel in one of Africa’s richest neighbourhoods, my personal message and considered view to him was that he was supposed to come back to Zimbabwe, subject himself to Zanu-PF discipline and be rehabilitated.

After all, he had actually made tentative steps to return, having at least once came after November 2017 in June 2018, after just six months away.

In my view, Kasukuwere’s return home, disciplining and rehabilitation within Zanu-PF would guarantee his political future. My reasoning was on the basis of him recognising President Mnangagwa’s leadership, giving him a chance to see off his personal and generational time as leader.

Again, we disagreed. On two points.

First, Kasukuwere disagreed on the option to come back home to be rehabilitated and subjected to disciplinary processes of Zanu-PF on both political and personal reasons; being, he strongly suspected that he could be killed or jailed.
At that time he had won his court cases but authorities were still holding on to papers of the house he had put up as surety, an indication to him that there was vindictiveness against him.

He had just lost his mother and according to him, he had not been able to bury her in peace because of the heightened tensions with rivals. He intimated that there were people who hated him strongly and wanted to kill him.

The second reason Kasukuwere appeared to disagree with me was that he still had an option to join Nelson Chamisa in a kind of Faustian pact to fight the system and President Mnangagwa. It is a discourse that had gained currency in weeks prior.

I disagreed with this route as a political move, reasoning that his future was in Zanu-PF.

In all this, I did as a journalist and countryman, and certainly within the context of a continuing conversation about succession I had been having with Kasukuwere for a number of years.

Having written an article in my column in the newspaper, [‘Tyson’s adventure in solitude (Welcome back!), The Herald 6 June, 2018], I had planned to write another article in The Herald about our meeting and the options that

were open to him in the much changed political circumstances.

This is the second reason why I am writing today.

I would want to make it clear that my meeting with Kasukuwere which became a matter of a notorious public secret, which I later debunked on social media, was never meant to be secretive, surreptitious or a security issue because it principally served two things namely journalistic curiosity of a bored writer in Joburg; and a continuing interlocution about succession politics, which apparently, is open-ended!

What then followed was my removal from The Herald, where I was Acting Editor, on grounds understood to be tied to my meeting with Kasukuwere who was being branded an “undesirable element”.

As I have made abundantly clear above, our meeting had no strings attached, but would be a useful resource for both political intelligence and my political writing at the time.

Which makes me feel a little saddened by people, both friends and enemies, who have gone on to spin weaves of lies and innuendo, with some even trying to mine personal capital out of what they thought would be the end of me to advance their moribund careers.

***

I remember that I would meet Kasukuwere at least once again in December 2019 as I was about to graduate at the University of Witwatersrand, and this time it we were a small diverse group of Zimbabweans hanging out for another “catch up”.

We talked and laughed about my removal from The Herald.

I didn’t complain, and never complained about it or blame Kasukuwere for my predicament.

I didn’t ask for anything or to become part of his future plans.

My views on his standing and prospects have barely evolved: I would give Kasukuwere same advice today, as I am doing by the force of this writing.

I would strongly disagree with his political choices, as I am likely to do now.
It goes without saying by a strange twist of fate, Kasukuwere finds himself in a position that he has to make a choice again.

It’s like 2019 all over again.

Having seen his Presidential bid quashed by the courts, he can choose to throw his weight with Zanu-PF where, arguably, his future lies, in my respectful view; or choose to side with Chamisa, something that I cautioned against four years ago.

Or he can choose to continue with “adventures of solitude”, holed up in self-imposed exile.

Apparently he has learnt nothing and forgot nothing.

In much simpler terms, and without fear of contradiction, I believe Kasukuwere has no capacity to defeat Emmerson Mnangagwa politically or otherwise, and should just swallow his pride and wait for his time – if it should come.

Again, this is coming from an independent, personal standpoint.

Based on this principle, I would not support a Kasukuwere campaign against President Mnangagwa in whatever form or guise, individually or collectively, because I believe Kasukuwere does not have the political or moral capacity to remove Mnangagwa.

Still, I would drink tea with Kasukuwere semuzukuru any day and disagree, if we must.

Meanwhile, following his reversal at the courts, Kasukuwere and his allies have issued statements of one kind of another, some purporting to, or implying, attempts to disturb the peace or constitutional order.

For Kasukuwere, I would suppose that he is undergoing grief, good grief, which is a natural process; and he should quickly make a decision that should save his political career first before thinking about being a national saviour.
His future depends on it.

***

Three weeks ago, I found myself on the road to Centenary, a township in Mashonaland Central where President Mnangagwa was holding a “star” rally, part of provincial rallies the incumbent is holding countrywide.

To date, he has raked 8 of these massively subscribed rallies which sort of give an indication of where the political winds are headed.

The Mashonaland Central rally was significant in that Kasukuwere hails from this province and the general expectation was that President Mnangagwa would address the crowd about the challenge posed by Kasukuwere.

Further, there is a rather tired notion about Shona tribal politics that continues to be peddled in some circles that has been used to claim – wrongly – that Kasukuwere would get votes, favoured by the so-called Zezuru nationalism or tribalism.

Empirically, this has not been tested, although any serious analyst would see from a mile that it is nonsense in 2023.
Still the rally – from its optics, semiotics, symbolism and what President Mnangagwa would say or not say – would be an important political marker for this year’s election.

I drove to Centenary with two journalists from my newspaper. The rally answered a number of key questions.
President Mnangagwa drew some impressive numbers consistent with blockbuster figures he has raked up in this campaign, underlining both the leader and the party’s popularity.

There is little doubt about the status quo, both at party and national levels. During his address President Mnangagwa delivered a strategically masterful speech that did not name either Kasukuwere or other challengers like Nelson Chamisa, who is actually the bigger rival for Mnangagwa in this election.

The references to political rivals was as minimal as it was snide, with the Zanu-PF leader brushing aside competitors as small to unknown quantities.

That way, he also denied Kasukuwere the kind of limelight he thought he would bask in as subject of the President’s bashing, which he would probably use as a jiujitsu for his own campaign.
That did not happen, and the rally was forgettable for Kasukuwere and his small band of supporters who were rubbing hands in anticipation.

Apart from the public spectacle and the sheer numbers in favour of Mnangagwa, intelligence among the people who gathered in the festive mood at Centenary shops before and after demonstrated that there was a gulf between the man who addressed them and his absentee rival.

This was not going to be a virtual launchpad for Kasukuwere, and Mnangagwa was clever not to play into his nemesis’ hands.

A point that has to be made in relation to this is that Mnangagwa is well-drilled in mindgames, intelligence and strategy better than his younger rivals across the board.

He was also able to outfox and outmanoeuvre Mugabe, his master for over 50 years. It will be recalled that in the setting of Mugabe and his wife’s rallies Mnangagwa sat, smiled clapped while he was being bashed. It happened in this province then.

Backed by a sophisticated ecosystem of formal and informal structures in and outside the party and State, Mnangagwa has the power, strength and capacity that is beyond his rivals.

He does well to mask this by sometimes allowing his rivals to appear cleverer, until his machinery kicks into gear with ruthless efficiency. I must also suggest, after careful analysis, that Mnangagwa may actually not rely on Zanu-PF as a unit of organisation, an organisation that once voted to remove him just weeks before Operation Restore Legacy.

Those that think they can infiltrate and weaken him through the party structures, as Kasukuwere may have punted in Mashonaland Central, clearly do not understand the dynamics.

As a matter of fact, it is the party that probably needs Mnangagwa more for its survival, including in this election.

An objective analysis of the various dynamics show that Mnangagwa is on top of the situation, leaving small chance to rivals who are not helping themselves by not having proper organisations.

Even for Kasukuwere, he had more than five years to form a political party to challenge the status quo, rather than announce independent candidature as he did a few weeks back, which offers a glimpse into his hollow strategy and lack of organisational capacity beyond hubris.

Strangely, there are similarities between Chamisa and Kasukuwere, both youngish candidates that have been consumed by vanity and delusions of dubious ordination to lead.

Whether they join hands or not this time around they will be defeated by Mnangagwa. That is a prospect I’m willing to lay my last penny on.

*Tichaona Zindoga is the publisher and CEO of Review & Mail newspaper. He is a former Political, Deputy and Acting Editor of The Herald. He is also the Director of two think tanks and consultancies, Ruzivo Media & Resource and the Communication, Research & Intelligence Centre Zimbabwe.

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