BY TAWANDA MAJONI
LESS than a year after the 2018 elections which he controversially won, a frenzied campaign started to position President Emmerson Mnangagwa as the ruling Zanu PF candidate in 2023.
That campaign is persisting. Yet there are others within the same party who clearly want Vice President Constantino Chiwenga to get his chance at the cherry next.
The MDC-T would obviously want its leader, Douglas Mwonzora, to stand in 2023. For the MDC-A, they are saying the young man, Nelson Chamisa—who is currently on whistle-top trips throughout the province to re-energise his presence in the political arena—must get his chance.
They still strongly believe that Mnangagwa and his machinery rigged him off the power trough in 2018.
Then you have periphery figures like Peter Ndlovu, the legendary footballer who we hear wants to do a George Weah in Zimbabwe, come 2023.
For the sake of leadership accountability and voter literacy, this space will in the next four or so weeks take a close look at these prospective presidential candidates.
Saviour “Tyson” Kasukuwere is the first out of the hat. There are numerous anecdotes—especially in Twimboland—that are tending to indicate that Tyson has put his gloves on and wants to step into the presidential ring in just over one and a half years, the pun aside.
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At this stage, it’s not exactly clear how Tyson wants to do it. But it seems there are two realistic possibilities. One, he would re-join Zanu PF and then take his nemesis, Mnangagwa, head on from within the party he was booted out of during the 2017 coup, which forced him into self-exile.
Two, he would contest as a half-Zanu PF candidate. This means that he would run as an independent, but relying heavily on a Zanu PF vote from supporters frustrated with the post-coup leadership. More about this in two minutes.
Who is Tyson?
During a conversation with Trevor Ncube, Alpha Media Holdings (AMH) chairman , seven months ago—a dialogue at which he showed some striking political maturity despite obviously misrepresenting a number of historical facts relating to the coup that pushed out the late Robert Mugabe—Tyson gave his date of birth as September 23, 1972.
This is, indeed, the date on his birth certificate, but accounts elsewhere say he was born in 1970.
He was born into a three-wife polygamy, off Josiah Kasukuwere and Gladys Kasukuwere, nee Maroodza. His father was forced to flee from home and live in a nearby refugee camp in the Chesa area in Mount Darwin, Mashonaland Central province, because of his known support for freedom fighters. When the father left, Tyson and his siblings were transferred to the then Salisbury’s Highfields suburb, a cauldron of black nationalism against colonial rule.
He should have started his primary education in 1979, but only managed to do so a year later because of the disruptions that came with the war against Ian Smith’s illegal regime and his father’s departure. In-between, he was a child vendor in Dzivaresekwa where, together with his brothers and sister, they struggled to eke out a living in the absence of their father.
He attended primary school in Highfields from 1980 to 1986. In 1987, he went for his secondary education at Bradley Institute in Mount Darwin. After that, he joined the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO). He was deployed to Manicaland province as a field operative and worked in the spook agency between 1988 and 1994. During that period, he was part of the CIO special tactics force that would periodically operate in Mozambique during the rebellion led by Renamo.
Gradually, he got immersed in politics, starting with the party’s youth wing. He rose through the ranks to become a Member of Parliament for Mount Darwin South from 2000 and was at one time the deputy secretary for youth affairs in the Zanu PF politburo before becoming the national commissar in the run-up to the 2017 coup.
He served as the deputy minister of Youth Development and Employment Creation between 2005 and 2009. From 2009 to 2013, he was the minister of Youth Development, Indigenisation—a word he still can’t spell as shown on his Twitter account—and Empowerment.
Kasukuwere was moved to the Environment portfolio after the 2013 general elections and then the Local Government, Public Works and National Housing ministry in 2015. That was his last job before the coup.
He was part of a youthful Zanu PF faction commonly known as Generation 40 or G40 that was entangled in a fierce succession war with another called Lacoste that engineered the coup and expelled Kasukuwere from the party, together with his colleagues like former ministers Patrick Zhuwao, Jonathan Moyo and Walter Mzembi.
His house was besieged by soldiers as the coup unfolded in mid-November 2017 and, according to him, hundreds of bullets were fired at his house where he was holed up with Moyo and the two’s families. He escaped through Mozambique and was subsequently charged with “border jumping”, but was later acquitted.
He is a citrus farmer and owns several business ventures that include Comoil, an oil outfit, Migdale, which specialises in pubic investments, as well as Allen Wack & Shepherd, a freight enterprise. The businesses are almost dormant, though, following his self-exile.
Anecdotes already available clearly show that Tyson wants to contest in the 2023 elections. So far, his intentions have mainly come out through social media and pockets of groups of Zimbabweans who are bidding for him. These Zimbabweans, needless to say, are former or current Zanu PF supporters. It seems, therefore, that Kasukuwere is mothballing his campaign in dribs and drabs and hopes the noise as well as followership will grow steadily as we move towards 2023.
Apparently, his main targets are Zanu PF supporters, and Zanu PF is the only party he has known since his formative years. If disgruntled members and supporters of the opposition are going to cross over to him that would be a plus. Tyson is evidently convinced that there is still a critical mass within Zanu PF that sympathises with the G40 faction and the late Mugabe, who remains his godfather and source of emotional appeal.
The strategy, then, would be to tap into this mass, which, without doubt, spooks the post-Mugabe leadership even as we speak, and harvest its disgruntlement at the elections.
That the Mnangagwa leadership will suffer significant voter losses in 2023 due to internal disappointments is a real possibility, so Tyson is partially correct.
But it’s difficult to see how Kasukuwere would be re-admitted into Zanu PF. By who? Clearly, those that back Mnangagwa—particularly his village boys and girls from the Midlands and parts of Masvingo—will angrily resist that.
Well, there has been talk that Kasukuwere has the sympathy of Chiwenga. It wouldn’t make sense, though, for Chiwenga to back Tyson for the presidency. The dude must also be interested in the post despite his recent public pronouncements in support of the Mnangagwa candidature. And chances are slim that Chiwenga would also start liking Tyson once again considering the bad relationship in the run-up to the coup. Political emotion is full of whim, yes, but it’s stretching it too far to think Chiwenga would back Tyson just so as to spite Mnangagwa.
The only way in which Tyson can return to Zanu PF is if the leadership of the current Zanu PF administration is declared illegitimate. There are attempts towards that through the court challenge that Sybeth Musengezi has made, whereby he is arguing that Mnangagwa’s ascendancy to party power post-coup was illegal.
If he succeeds, that would overhaul the leadership dynamics in Zanu PF and provide a chance for a new order that might lead to Tyson’s readmission. But then, how many chances are you giving to Musengezi on this one? You think they would fight limb, neck and head to ensure that Chief Justice Luke Malaba retained his position for nothing?
With readmission into Zanu PF almost impossible now, Tyson’s only opportunity would be to run as an independent and still hope to harvest the ruling party protest vote. But his colleague, Moyo, has said it well on this one. It’s very, very cold outside Zanu PF. Besides, voting in Zimbabwe is still polarised. Hardly any room for independent candidates. Just Zanu PF and the MDC-A, so to speak.
To increase his chances, Tyson may also want to consider tapping into the opposition, particularly those that are bitter with the wrangles within the MDC. That’s a long throw, needless to say. The problem with Kasukuwere is that he has a richly notorious past in political violence. There are thousands of people out there who would have been glad if the coup plotters had killed him that day in mid-November 2017 when they raided his home.
They strongly believe that he was among those that led the violent campaigns in Mashonaland Central province in the run-up to the June 2008 presidential run-off in which hundreds of people were killed, maimed, raped and hounded out of their homes. It seems Tyson wants to cool things off on this one through his e-biography that he is advertising for 2022. In the advert, he indicates that he will be talking about his past mistakes, but it’s not clear if that will sway anyone.
Tyson made some good bucks, no doubt, through his multiple business ventures. But that came not without controversy. There are many who are still asking where he got the money to start it off. Pubic allegations, though not proven as truth, say he peddled black market fuel in the early 2000s to bankroll Comoil. The naughtier ones say he poached for rhino horns in Mozambique during his stint with the CIO in Manicaland.
Add to that the fact that his own godfather, the late Mugabe, at one accused him of stealing public land during his time as Local Government minister.
Besides, Tyson has not been able to sell a consistent, logical and convincing ideology so far, tending to mostly pitch his statements around the bankruptcy of the Mnangagwa dispensation.
So, as it stands, Kasukuwere is a fringe guy in the presidential race. It would take a whole miracle for him to bag the presidency, come 2023. In the meantime, he can be happy just being a spoil sport.
- Tawanda Majoni is the national coordinator at Information for Development Trust (IDT) and can be contacted on [email protected]