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Zimbabwe: Will Saviour Kasukuwere take votes from Zanu-PF?

By Veneranda Langa

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Posted on June 21, 2023 14:43

Former Zimbabwean minister Saviour Kasukuwere is escorted at the Magistrates court in Harare © File photo of former Zimbabwean minister and current presidential candidate Saviour Kasukuwere (c) (REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo)
File photo of former Zimbabwean minister and current presidential candidate Saviour Kasukuwere (c) (REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo)

A new entrant in Zimbabwe’s August 2023 presidential race could result in division of the ruling party vote, according to political analysts.

Presidential aspirants, including Lovemore Madhuku (party leader of the National Constitutional Assembly); Trust Chikhora (Coalition for Democrats chief); Douglas Mwonzora (head of the MDC) and Saviour Kasukuwere (an independent candidate) filed their papers Wednesday at the Nomination Court, according to local media.

Essentially, Zimbabwe’s polls will be a Zanu-PF versus opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) affair, who both filed their papers on Tuesday.

However, the entry of Kasukuwere might precipitate a presidential run-off, Methuseli Moyo, a political analyst, tells The Africa Report.

Kasukuwere served as a local government minister as well as youth, indigenisation and empowerment minister in the late President Robert Mugabe’s government. Kasukuwere was also the Zanu-PF’s political commissar, a top party organising post.

The Kasukuwere factor

“His votes will disturb […] the ruling Zanu-PF party [in particular],” says  Tinashe Gumbo, a political analyst and scholar based in Nairobi.

“He still has contacts with people who were in Zanu-PF political structures. Again, there are those in Zanu PF that loved him as an individual; particularly in his home province of Mashonaland Central, Gumbo tells The Africa Report.

All those people that were sympathetic to Mugabe will see Kasukuwere’s candidature as an opportunity to revenge what happened during Mugabe’s removal in 2017

He also belonged to the G40 (Generation 40) faction of Zanu-PF, which was backed by Mugabe, and was at the top of the military’s hit-list when Mugabe was forcefully removed from power in 2017. When his house was surrounded and shot at by the army in 2017, Kasukuwere went into self-imposed exile in South Africa.

“As a result, all those people that were sympathetic to Mugabe will see Kasukuwere’s candidature as an opportunity to [a]venge what happened during Mugabe’s removal in 2017, where most G40 members lost a lot morally, materially and politically. They might see Kasukuwere as someone coming to assist them to regain what they lost,” says Gumbo.

In a letter to Zimbabweans on 19 June announcing his candidature for the 23 August elections, Kasukuwere said the Zanu-PF party congress failed to allow fair competition for the presidency in December 2017.

“It is unacceptable that the so-called new dispensation has exiled myself and many other comrades over one key disagreement about how the internal succession process ought to be handled. Our position was, and remains clear, that without intimidation and abuse of state institutions. Cde [comrade] Mnangagwa could never have won and cannot win any leadership position in a fair and open political process,” Kasukuwere said.

He accused Mnangagwa of destroying Zanu-PF structures like the Womens’ League and the Youth League by forming parallel ‘For ED’ structures, referring to the president’s initials.

“The leaders of these ‘For ED’ groups have unlimited access to Cde Mnangagwa and unlimited resources while the party structures remain unfunded,” Kasukuwere said.

Numerous opposition parties

In 2018, Zimbabwe had 23 presidential candidates, some from very small, unknown political parties. Most of the smaller opposition parties failed to win even 1% of the vote. Out of the 23, a total of 17 small political parties joined President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s post-2018 election grouping, the Political Actors Dialogue (POLAD), which was launched on 17 May 2019.

The POLAD leaders have been enjoying government support, such as vehicles and allowances.

The number of presidential candidates that will contest the 23 August elections will be unveiled after the nomination court sitting on 21 June.

However, analysts say while fierce competition will be between Mnangagwa and main opposition CCC leader Nelson Chamisa, newcomers like Kasukuwere might actually divide the ruling party vote, while the smaller party contenders could divide the opposition vote.

Those who probably will not win but could be instrumental include Robert Chapman (Democratic Union of Zimbabwe), Douglas Mwonzora (MDC leader), Lovemore Madhuku (National Constitutional Assembly leader), Elizabeth Valerio (United Zimbabwe Alliance leader) and Linda Masarira (leader of the Labour Economists and Afrikan Democrats), among others.

“That divides the opposition votes and gives the ruling Zanu PF party an advantage. The worst thing is that some of these smaller opposition parties are actually breakaway factions from other opposition parties,” says Gumbo.

“The major weakness of Zimbabwe’s politics is that individuals who form new political parties do not want to form alliances with an opposition party that has chances of winning the election. In countries like Kenya, we have seen smaller opposition parties coming in to form alliances with a stronger opposition party,” he says.

MDC factionalism drama

The Douglas Mwonzora-led MDC party is experiencing some serious divisions after party chairperson Morgen Komichi announced that he will stand as a breakaway presidential candidate – just six weeks before the polls.

On 15 June, Komichi presided over a press conference in Harare where he launched the United MDC party – a breakaway faction from the MDC, stating that he will be its presidential candidate.

At the moment, my own party MDC has been reduced to nothing. It is non-existent and no one talks about it anymore

He criticised Mwonzora’s leadership qualities saying he has destroyed the MDC party.

“MDC was a force to reckon with. Zimbabwe and [the] government would shake immediately whenever Morgan Tsvangirai [the late MDC-T leader] said something at the helm of the opposition; but today the opposition is quiet. We need to deal with these issues.  At the moment, my own party MDC has been reduced to nothing. It is non-existent and no one talks about it anymore,” says Komichi.

“When the Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi spoke about elections in [the] Senate recently, he said [the] contest[…] will be between Zanu-PF and the opposition CCC. I asked him what about us, the MDC? We still have the energy and leadership to revive the MDC,” Komichi said on 15 June at the United MDC party launch.

Analyst Gumbo says continued factionalism in opposition parties will cost them dearly on 23 August.

“Chances of winning are diminished if the opposition is divided. We are likely to see Zanu-PF making inroads in urban areas because of these divisions.”

Steep nomination fees

Zimbabwe Election Advocacy Trust (ZEAT) Executive Director Ignatious Sadziwa tells The Africa Report that steep nomination fees, where $20,000 is required to register as a presidential candidate, will reduce the number of candidates.

“However, pluralism and diversity is encouraged in the spirit of electoral democracy. It is circumspect for political parties; especially those opposing the status quo to foster alliances and partnerships so as to forge a unified counteract. Too many parties on the ballot paper will divide the electorate and disadvantage opposition political formations as a result,” says Sadziwa.

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