Tyson TKO

Zimbabwe: Kicking Kasukuwere off ballot may split Mnangagwa vote

By Farai Shawn Matiashe

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Posted on July 18, 2023 10:25

 © File photo of former Zimbabwe minister Saviour Kasukuwere, potential presidential candidate. (Photo: Eric Roset/Africa Progress Panel/cc-by-2.0)
File photo of former Zimbabwe minister Saviour Kasukuwere, potential presidential candidate. (Photo: Eric Roset/Africa Progress Panel/cc-by-2.0)

President Emmerson Mnangagwa elbows out former local government minister and Zanu-PF political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere to increase chances of securing another term in the polls on 23 August.

The High Court last week barred Kasukuwere from the upcoming polls on the grounds that he has been outside the country for more than 18 consecutive months and is therefore no longer a registered voter, a prerequisite to be eligible to run for the presidency.

The Central Intelligence Organisation’s (CIO) shadowy group, Forever Associates of Zimbabwe (FAZ), has employed various tactics including violence, rally bans and voter intimidation to try to suppress the main opposition party, Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC).

Splitting votes

Kasukuwere, who is running as an independent presidential candidate, is Mnangagwa’s latest threat.

Widely known as Tyson, Kasukuwere of the then-Zanu-PF faction Generation 40 (G40) was likely to win votes in the ruling party’s strongholds such as Mashonaland Province, his home area. Mnangagwa’s main rival Nelson Chamisa, leader of CCC, would have benefitted from a split of votes.

High Court Judge David Mangota nullified Kasukuwere’s candidacy and ordered the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) not to include his name on ballot papers.

I doubt that Kasukuwere’s absence will necessarily benefit Mnangagwa

The veteran G40 politician’s eligibility was challenged by Zanu-PF activist Lovedale Mangwana, who has close links to information permanent secretary Nick Mangwana and Zanu-PF legal affairs secretary Paul Mangwana.

The former cabinet minister filed his nomination papers to run for the top post from South Africa along with 10 other candidates. Kasukuwere has been living in exile in South Africa since 2017 when President Robert Mugabe was deposed in a military coup.

Kasukuwere is a Mugabe loyalist and supported Grace Mugabe, who he and other G40 cadres were backing to take over from the long-time ruler.

Mnangagwa v Kasukuwere case intensifies

Kasukuwere’s lawyers filed an appeal with the Supreme Court, automatically setting aside the ruling of the High Court.

Mangwana has approached the High Court seeking leave to execute judgment pending appeal, meaning Kasukuwere would be blocked from running for president while the case continues. He has also made an urgent application with the Supreme Court for Kasukuwere’s appeal to be fast-tracked.

The removal of Kasukuwere from the ballot benefits the incumbent Mnangagwa, says political analyst Kudakwashe Munemo. “But only to the extent in which [Mnangagwa] was going to lose some of the Zanu-PF voters loyal to Kasukuwere, given his previous role as a political commissar,” Munemo tells The Africa Report.

“In terms of securing another term, that is likely to be aided by the uneven, unlevel field which does not guarantee a free, fair and credible election,” he adds, referring to Mnangagwa’s chances.

What would Tyson do?

For Mnangagwa to benefit from the nullification of Kasukuwere’s candidacy depends on what the former cabinet minister recommends to his support base, says another political analyst, Eldred Masunungure.

“Is [Mnangagwa] going to allow them to vote with their conscience for whoever they choose, or is he going to direct them to vote for an opposition candidate like Chamisa? It also depends on whether his supporters will obey his command,” he says.

“Disgruntled Kasukuwere supporters and sympathisers may decide to withdraw from the voting process and become apathetic. Whatever the case, I doubt that Kasukuwere’s absence will necessarily benefit Mnangagwa,” he adds.

If Kasukuwere is successfully eliminated it means that his supporters might abstain from voting or look for an alternative. The elimination of one candidate will potentially give those who are still in the race more votes, says political analyst Wellington Gadzikwa.

“It depends on whether [Kasukuwere’s] supporters are going to vote for someone else to punish the incumbent. If [Kasukuwere] gives his supporters the signal [to do so], it would minimise Mnangagwa’s chances,” he says.

Captured judiciary

Soon after Kasukuwere filed his nomination papers to run for the top post, the police announced they had two pending arrest warrants for him.

Kasukuwere briefly came to Zimbabwe in 2018 and was arrested but the magistrate later cleared him of the charges.

Since then, he has never been back in the country.

When he checked in for a flight with a regional airline in June, law enforcement agents, including the military and police, were stationed at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport to arrest him, but he was not on the flight.

Success is inconceivable … because it appears the law and Constitution undermine his case

For years the judiciary has been accused of colluding with the government and Zanu-PF leadership to elbow out political opponents.

Fractured factionalism

Mnangagwa’s popularity has been fading since 2017 when he ascended to power through a military coup.

He has been using the state apparatus at his disposal to cripple critics, particularly his main rival, say analysts.

“From what we see and read about, Mnangagwa is ultra-visible and ensures that his main rival, Nelson Chamisa, is suppressed and largely operating under the radar,” Masunungure tells The Africa Report.

“It is, of course, Mnangagwa’s strategic goal to neutralise any existential threat and competition,” he adds.

Kasukuwere is likely not to have the High Court ruling on his candidacy overturned given the judiciary capture, says Masunungure.

“In the context of allegations of judiciary capture, it is reasonable to assume that the legal process is designed to use the captured judiciary to eliminate a potent political threat,” he says.

Masunungure says the chances of Kasukuwere’s appeal succeeding are next to zero.

“In fact, success is inconceivable not only because of the alleged judiciary capture but also because it appears the law and Constitution undermine his case,” he says.

“It is highly unlikely that he will make it. The system has already conspired to have him removed as a candidate,” says analyst Munemo.

Kasukuwere, who draws his support from disgruntled young people in Zanu-PF, is believed to be backed by some powerful people in the ruling party and government. The Kasukuwere factor also highlights infighting within Zanu-PF, a party with a history of factionalism.

“It is entirely plausible that there are big guns in the ruling Zanu-PF who are pushing the Kasukuwere candidacy,” says Masunungure, adding that it is part of these insiders’ strategy to make Mnangagwa lose the presidential election.

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