Fiery Zanu PF commissar Saviour Kasukuwere had put his fate in God’s hands on the morning of April 26 2017.
BY XOLISANI NCUBE
Vultures had been encircling around him for almost a month and last Wednesday had been billed as his judgement day.
The usually sleepy town of Bindura, the capital of restive Mashonaland Central, was the venue of what should have been Kasukuwere’s “last super”.
His first response to a question from this reporter on what he expected from the meeting where his rivals wanted to seal his fate as the leader of Zanu PF’s most active organ was telling.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me,” the Local Government minister, sometimes referred to as Tyson because of his physical presence and aggressive character, said, quoting Psalms 23 vs 4 from the Bible.
Zanu PF heavyweights from the province wanted Kasukuwere fired from his position for allegedly plotting to topple President Robert Mugabe and creating parallel structures in Zanu PF.
In a choreographed manner, almost all Zanu PF provinces had endorsed Mashonaland Central’s position — that he had to be relieved of his duties.
However, Mugabe, who is said to be unconvinced that the minister is plotting against him, sent a high-powered delegation led by Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda to investigate the allegations.
Kasukuwere’s rivals considered the meeting a mere formality, with Mashonaland Central Provincial Affairs minister Martin Dinha going to the extent of advising Kasukuwere to consider leaving the country or going into farming.
For many, the Bindura meeting was going to be the commissar and his alleged G40 faction’s waterloo because since former vice-president Joice Mujuru’s dramatic ouster in 2014, no one has been accused of toppling Mugabe and survived to tell the tale within Zanu PF.
But to the disappointment of the rival Lacoste faction, Kasukuwere left Bindura in a celebratory mood after his accusers failed to provide evidence to back their allegations.
The storm, however, might not be over for the minister, but it must have dawned on him that his seat is not for the faint-hearted.
Some before him like Webster Shamu, who was humiliated at Zanu PF’s 2014 congress for allegedly supporting Mujuru, saw worse things.
Others like Moven Mahachi, Border Gezi and Elliot Manyika paid for the position with their lives.
With factional fights seemingly never ending and Mugabe’s advanced age causing anxiety within the party, the post of political commissar has become the centre of attraction — especially when leadership tussles are involved.
A commissar is a communist name given to a person responsible for the political ideological orientation, education and ensuring the existence of proper organisational structures, as well as integration of the civilians to the military wing of the movement.
His mandate is to ensure party structures are in place and to mobilise membership and support for Zanu PF during elections.
According to the Zanu PF constitution, the commissar is number six on the party hierarchy below the president, his two deputies, secretary for finance and secretary for administration.
The commissar’s duties, according to the constitution, include mobilisation, supervision of party structures and preparing the party for general elections.
A commissar is also a key figure in the setting up of and legitimatisation of voting structures for any congress.
The commissar, according to political analyst Ibbo Mandaza, is the “heart of the party and a cog upon which its success or failure hedges on”.
“When the party succeeds, the glory is shared among its membership and when it fails, the commissariat, which is the heart and blood of the party, should take the blame,” Mandaza said.
“In short, it is the blood that should drive the party.”
Mandaza said Kasukuwere, just like his predecessors, has become the target of former party members that were mercilessly fired for challenging Mugabe and his wife.
“Because of its importance in the administration of any party, the commissariat is a target and always in the eye of every member. It is the party on its own,” he said.
“Without the commissariat, there is no Zanu PF because this is where the people are organised and for any political party to be in existence, it is the people.”
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure described the political commissar’s office as a “pressure cooker”.
“The issue is not about office bearers but the office itself,” he said.
“It has the potential to make or unmake political careers of many and for that reason, it has been a source of conflict and contestation within the party.”
Masunungure said the position needed someone with physical and mental stamina to absorb all political pressure that came along with the job.
“This is a strategic post which holds political careers for many people and it could be abused to break or make them,” he said.
“The person tasked to that office should be able to absorb all the pressure which includes disciplinary actions, elections as well as growth of certain individuals politically.
“It has a lot of animosity and attracts a lot of interest and attention compared to other portfolios in the politburo.”
He said the current wave of protests against Kasukuwere had nothing to do with his personality but the duties assigned to him.
“His future seems to be guaranteed, at least for now, but he is likely to be reshuffled and survive the purge. His enemies I believe would not be opposed to this because all they have been demanding is his removal,” Masunungure said.
Harare-based political analyst Alexander Rusero said the calls for Kasukuwere’s ouster reflected the infighting rocking Zanu PF.
“It is not about the office or anything but what is happening mirrors the political settings in Zanu PF,” he said.
“If things were okay in the party, as ordinary people we should not be worried about who is the commissar of the party.
“But because of instability and anxiety created by factions, the office of the commissar would remain a source or a hub of fighting and anyone occupying it is a target.”
Hundreds of party cadres have been shown the door under Kasukuwere’s watch and these include war veterans and youths.
Some of those who were fired since 2014 are said to be active members in the fresh campaign for his ouster.
The former Zanu PF members have reportedly joined hands with land barons who are against the creation of Urban Development Corporation (Udcorp) to spearhead land developments in urban areas.
Before Kasukuwere, Shamu came under a barrage of attacks for fanning factionalism.
Shamu — a war veteran — had a torrid time with provinces such as Masvingo, Midlands and Manicaland who wanted him fired for allegedly supporting Mujuru.
During his era, Midlands used to be on the Zanu PF politburo agenda on countless times along with Masvingo and Manicaland as warring factions battled to control the provincial leadership.
In Masvingo, the battle centred around former politburo member Dzikamai Mavhaire and a faction that was said to be aligned to him against Josiah Hungwe.
Hungwe and Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Shuvai Mahofa are now some of Kasukuwere’s most vocal critics.
Just like in Midlands, the same camp that had running battles with Shamu continued its love-hate relationship with Kasukuwere.
At some point, Mugabe had to send a probe team led by former politburo member Olivia Muchena to investigate the chaos that had rocked the Jason Machaya executive.
Machaya’s executive was locked in a vicious battle with deputy chairperson Larry Mavhima — a key ally of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The VP’s camp in the Midlands and Masvingo continues to have running battles with Shamu’s successor, accusing him of factionalism.
Shamu’s predecessor, Manyika died in a car accident under mysterious circumstances in 2008 enroute to Gwanda, Matabeleland South, where he was due to preside over elections for a new executive.
The Mashonaland Central political kingpin died after his official Mercedes-Benz burst a tyre on the Zvishavane-Mbalabala road, resulting in the driver losing control.
Manyika’s predecessor Border Gezi — also from Mashonaland Central — also died in a car accident while travelling to a party restructuring meeting in Masvingo.
Gezi’s car skidded off the Harare-Masvingo road near Mvuma and crashed into a tree, killing him instantly.
Mahachi, who was also Defence minister, died on May 26 2001 when his vehicle collided with another car as he travelled from Mutare to Nyanga after attending a Zanu PF Manicaland provincial meeting in his capacity as commissar. – The Standard