Source: Lacoste bays for Saviour Kasukuwere’s blood | The Financial Gazette January 26, 2017
A FACTION linked to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa is pushing for the revival of the National Elections Directorate to neutralise Saviour Kasukuwere who, as the national political commissar, has been co-ordinating ZANU-PF’s internal polls, the Financial Gazette can report.
The ruling party discarded the National Elections Directorate in 2014 in order to destroy a cabal associated with former vice president, Joice Mujuru, who was accused of hijacking the organ to further her factional agendas.
Mujuru was dismissed from ZANU-PF at the party’s last congress in December 2014 on allegations of attempting to remove President Robert Mugabe from power using unconstitutional means.
She denies the accusations that saw more than 200 of her allies either being suspended or expelled from the governing party.
Having discarded the National Elections Directorate, its functions were not explicitly devolved to any of the party’s organs.
To fill in the void created by the oversight, Kasukuwere is facilitating the conduct of the party’s internal elections in his capacity as national political commissar.
But a faction aligned to Mnangagwa, known as Team Lacoste, now wants the directorate to be revived to dilute the 47-year-old politician’s influence.
Team Lacoste accuses “Tyson” — as Kasukuwere is affectionately known — of going beyond his mandate and not being a neutral convener of the party’s internal polls, having lost crucial members in key party organs through votes of no confidence, suspensions and dismissals.
As secretary for the commissariat, Kasukuwere’s responsibilities encompass the coordination of party programmes at provincial, district and party levels; formulation of strategies and their implementation.
He has had absolute control of processes to choose parliamentary candidates, provincial chairs as well as any other electable position in the party.
Since taking up the position in 2014, the legislator for Mount Darwin South has been a thorn in Team Lacoste’s flesh.
His adversaries accuse him of promoting the interests of a rival faction that goes by the moniker Generation 40 or G40 although he denies it.
G40 is fighting tooth and nail to derail Mnangagwa’s perceived presidential ambitions and has been linked to the dismissal from the party of Vice President’s allies, among them, Christopher Mutsvangwa, Douglas Mahiya, Victor Matemadanda, Godfrey Tsenengamu and Vengai Musengi.
Team Lacoste is, therefore, aggressively lobbying to have the National Elections Directorate resuscitated and placed under President Mugabe’s two deputies, Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko, in the absence of the national chairman who used to preside over it.
At the party’s congress in 2014, President Mugabe demoted Simon Khaya-Moyo from the position of national chairman to party spokesman, but opted to leave the slot vacant. He then directed Mnangagwa and Mphoko to assume the functions of the national chairman on a rotational basis.
Team Lacoste is hopeful that once under the purview of the Vice Presidents, Mnangagwa would be able to overshadow Mphoko since he is more experienced, politically, having served in government and the party longer than his compatriot, although it is hardly conceivable that the former diplomat would be an easy pushover. Mnangagwa also enjoys a long association with President Mugabe, dating back 53 years ago.
“You have to understand that the elections directorate vets possible candidates for internal polls such as primary elections to choose legislators and councillors as well as the party provincial leaderships. The current setting where Tyson has been doing it is not healthy for us. You see how he has been defending the co-options he has made in provincial structures yet, it is supposed to be the election directorate’s duty to co-opt people into vacant leadership positions. So the general consensus (among Mnangagwa’s supporters) is that this situation has to change going into 2018,” said a ZANU-PF source aligned to Team Lacoste.
It now remains to be seen if Team Lacoste would succeed in pushing to have the directorate placed under the purview of the Vice Presidents, who are performing the functions of the national chairman.
It is unlikely though that they will push for its incorporation in the party’s constitution because that would take longer unless they circumvent some of the processes. Besides, they also do not seem to have the critical mass to do it in the wake of the expulsions and suspensions of their key allies.
In terms of the party’s constitution, the power to amend the charter lies with the Central Committee, subject to ratification by congress, convened after every five years.
Once put before the Central Committee, the proposal to amend the charter must pass with a two thirds majority; the same threshold is required for it to sail through congress.
The last congress was held in 2014, with the next scheduled for 2019.
ZANU-PF insiders said the only viable way to bring back the directorate would be to convince President Mugabe to make a declaration to that effect.
It would, nonetheless, appear that G40 could still have the numbers to even things out given the composition of the directorate, which used to comprise of the national chairman (as chair), the secretary for administration, the national political commissar, the secretary for legal affairs, leaders of the women and youth leagues and three committee members drawn from the Politburo.
To their advantage, Team Lacoste claim to be in control of the legal department, with Mnangagwa providing them with the cover.
ZANU-PF’s deputy-secretary for legal affairs, Paul Mangwana, believed to be Mnangagwa’s ally, this week said the party’s Vice Presidents should supervise internal elections interchangeably unlike the current situation whereby the commissariat department is running the show on its own, with President Mugabe’s deputies only being invited to drum up support for ruling party candidates during parliamentary by-elections.
“The political commissar is only a member of the directorate responsible for organising party systems,” he said.
Lately, Kasukuwere has been on the ropes for allowing nine provinces to be run by chairpersons who did not go through internal elections.
The previous office holders where shown the exits either for supporting Mujuru, pursuing factional agendas or insubordination.
Those who replaced them, according to Team Lacoste, were handpicked by Kasukuwere, who has since argued that the nine provincial chairmen were co-opted in line with ZANU-PF’s constitution.
The faction is therefore ratcheting up pressure on him to allow elections in the affected provinces in the hope that their proxies would prevail if the polls were to be conducted by an Elections Directorate.
In the case of the provincial chairmen, Mangwana said a Provincial Elections Directorate must preside over the matter at provincial level, reporting to the National Elections Directorate as has always been the case.
“So nothing has really changed except that now Vice Presidents chair the national elections directorate in the place of a national chairman. The chairmanship was abolished as you might know,” said Mangwana.
Contacted for comment this week, Kasukuwere said it was immaterial to debate about the elections directorate because, as the party’s national political commissar, he will still be involved in the running of internal polls in one way or the other.
“I do not care about whether or not there is the elections directorate. As political commissar, either way, I will still be involved in the running of elections in the party,” he said.
Analysts said Team Lacoste would find the proposal a hard sell because the national political commissar has been doing a good job by delivering victories in by-elections, with the exception of Norton constituency, where an independent candidate, Temba Mliswa, pulled a shocker.
They said his work rate would always present challenges for other members of the directorate to match because Kasukuwere stops at nothing to achieve his mission.
The fact that a larger section of the party comprising young Turks and women is in support of the existing state of affairs, is also seen presenting headaches for Team Lacoste, which has lost control of key organs of the party.
There are also reports that a section of ZANU-PF would want Ignatius Chombo, who could not be contacted for comment this week, to run the directorate, as secretary for administration. What that means is that it would be difficult for the party to achieve consensus on the matter, which favours the status quo.
Political scientist, Eldred Masunungure, said the resolution of the matter would largely depend on how President Mugabe would seek to balance the factional interests in ZANU-PF.
The University of Zimbabwe lecturer reasoned that President Mugabe might first monitor the nature of the fights before acting.
“It (the directorate) has a 50-50 percent chance of seeing the light of day, but it will largely depend on how he intends to balance the weights. If at a particular time the weight is tilted against Team Lacoste, he would want to balance that by bringing the directorate to life. So in this case, it will depend on the amount of power that Team Lacoste or G40 have,” said Masunungure.
“It has been the tradition of the party since independence to put up the directorate to run internal elections. The duty has never been a monopoly of individuals, but a collective effort. But I see a situation whereby G40 would ferociously resist the directorate because it is so far in charge. Running primary elections is a key determinant in the future of the party,” he added.
Zimbabwe Democracy Institute director, Pedzisai Ruhanya, said it was highly unlikely for President Mugabe to change the current order.
“He is very much unlikely to upset the status quo,” he opined, adding that ZANU-PF bigwigs were now doing things in his name, taking advantage of his advanced age.
“There are many things that are being done in his name. People are doing things that meet (President) Mugabe’s general expectations and are only concerned with not doing things that upset him. So in this case, it will boil down to who (President) Mugabe has ears for,” said Ruhanya.