Ruthless Mugabe turns on top lieutenant

Source: Ruthless Mugabe turns on top lieutenant – NewsDay Zimbabwe April 7, 2017

Zimbabwe’s Local Government minister and Zanu PF political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere is not a happy man right now.

Opinion: Maynard Manyowa

At the time, he was the most feared minister in the land. His combative approach to politics earned him the nickname “Tyson”, after the heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson from the United States.

Kasukuwere is a former intelligence operative with an alleged shady past. He is accused of playing a part in the killing or maiming several party cadres threatening his authority, including a lawmaker who had unearthed gross corruption and theft at Zimbabwe’s diamond fields and massive irregularities surrounding the licensed diamond operations — illicit operations which even President Robert Mugabe concedes may have cost Zimbabwe over $15 billion.

When Mugabe’s wife Grace first showed signs of wanting to join politics, and possibly take over from her husband, Tyson became one of her most vocal supporters. At one rally, he told people that he would personally deal with people who were against her: “Not here, not in this province,” he said, sending a chilling warning to would-be dissenters.

As youth and indigenisation minister, Kasukuwere was repeatedly implicated in corrupt deals, including one in which several million dollars were plundered through dubiously awarded youth empowerment funds.

As local government minister, he reportedly sold stands in a prime area to a local prophet, in a corrupt deal that allegedly angered Mugabe.

Finally, Mugabe has taken action. A few days after his much-publicised insult to members of a “biased” fourth estate, Kasukuwere’s province, Mashonaland Central, was reported to have resolved to pass a vote of no confidence against him.

A massive demo was planned by his juniors against him. His peers, many of them handpicked and cherry-picked by Tyson himself, in his own backyard, want him out of government, out of the party, and out of the province.

No one saw this coming. Tyson was extremely powerful, and also extremely wealthy — in Zimbabwe, money can usually buy loyalty. He is also rumoured to be extremely ruthless. But none of this looks like it was able to protect him.

Another demo is planned for some time this week. Some reports say that out of the top 18 in the provincial party leadership, support for and against him is evenly split. His support is hanging by a thread.

He is not the first of Grace’s allies to find themselves facing this fate. Sarah Mahoka, and Eunice Sandi-Moyo, both torchbearers for the Grace campaign, were recipients of similar demonstrations. Now they have resigned. Having spent the best part of two years insulting Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Grace Mugabe’s main rival to succeed Mugabe, they have now been hung out to dry.

Kasukuwere, seemingly having outlived his usefulness to the president, is facing the same fate.

But Kasukuwere’s reputation, his past, his character and personality mean that few Zimbabweans feel sorry for him. In fact, some are celebrating his demise, albeit prematurely. In some quarters, the move is being hailed as a turning point, that perhaps the corrupt cabal of “young turks” may be on their way out, and Zimbabwe on its way up.

But evidence of this is scant. In reality, it appears to be another masterstroke by Mugabe.

When Mugabe wants to protect a cadre, no matter how corrupt and evil, he will do so. Another member of the “young turks”, Jonathan Moyo, the alleged brains behind Grace’s ascendancy, faced the daunting prospect of serious jail time after the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission investigated him for fraud, and found credible evidence of such. He escaped thanks to Mugabe’s intervention: His prosecution was blocked, and the anti-graft commission was moved from the Justice Ministry to The Office of The President and Cabinet.

What is instructive is that Mugabe chose to save Moyo, but appears disinterested in saving Kasukuwere.

Supporters of Mnangagwa are also celebrating Kasukuwere’s downfall. Without him, Grace’s campaign to succeed her husband is weakened, while Mnangagwa’s hand is strengthened. But they shouldn’t get ahead of themselves; Mugabe’s track record suggests that as long as he remains in State House, the only person who benefits from his machinations is himself.

Maynard Manyowa is a contributing editor of Khuluma Afrika, a non-partisan centre for political analysis, investigative journalism, and social commentary. This article first appeared on The Daily Maverick.