GOVERNMENT’S decision to take the Independence Day celebrations to Mashonaland Central province is an effort by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s regime to neutralise former G40 key member Saviour Kasukuwere’s influence ahead of elections, Godfrey Tsenengamu, an affiliate of Kasukuwere, has told The NewsHawks.
Kasukuwere is the former member of Parliament in the province and is reported to be contemplating entering the presidential race in 2023.
There are fears that such a move could dilute Mnangagwa’s votes in Mashonaland Central and other Zezuru-dominated provinces.
Kasukuwere was a legislator in Mt Darwin South from 2000 until 2017 when he fled the country following the dramatic ouster of the then president Robert Mugabe in a military coup.
“They are going there to try and neutralise influence of Kasukuwere, because this is where Kasukuwere comes from and this is where I also come from. So the indication that Kasukuwere is going to stand for presidency has unsettled them,” said Tsenengamu.
The event was graced by former vice-president Joice Mujuru, who has been away from active politics since 2018.
Her presence, former cabinet minister Walter Mzembi said, signified reconciliation of the old guard but not extending to former party allies such as Kasukuwere.
“Joyce Mujuru being there was a significant act of reconciliation given what we all know. Coming from diplomacy and as a nation builder I wished of course these acts of reconciliation would go beyond liberation fighters appeasing themselves only to holistic and wholesale reconciliation to a generation to people like even Kasukuwere. I recall him bringing Mnangagwa to me for lunch in Victoria Falls for a private traditional meal; they were very close buddies plotting together,” said Mzembi.
But, Tsenengamu says Mnangangwa and friends are soliciting for support from the province by roping in Mujuru.
“They tried to bring Mai Mujuru on board, as much as it was a national celebration but they are trying to look for influential figures that hail from that area to join their team in trying to neutralise Kasukuwere’s influence in the upcoming general election,” he said.
Previously, the ceremony was held at either the National Sports Stadium or Rufaro Stadium in Harare although it was held in Bulawayo last year. In his speech at the event, Mnangagwa said the move was important to recognise that most of the war collaborators that fought in the war that brought Zimbabwe its independence came from rural areas.
“Being the first independence celebrations to be held in a rural province, this year’s event serves as a jubilant statement and symbol of honour to the many sons and daughters of Zimbabwe who fought for our liberation, who were drawn from every village of our country,” said Mnangagwa before making a long winding speech about the achievements he has made since he got into power.
“It was a highly symbolic move, an exercise in taking uhuru to the very cradle of the struggle for independence. Mt Darwin was a spark plug of the liberation war and holding the inaugural national independence ceremony there outside the traditional venue of National Sports Stadium or Rufaro Stadium was an acknowledgment of the significant role this area and its people played in our emancipation from colonialism. From confinement in ‘Keeps’ which this area and Chiweshe were famous for to the symbolic celebration of a ‘free’ people is what the ceremony in Mt Darwin represented bar the electoral politics of the moment ,” said Mzembi.
Tsenengamu however says that the move was well orchestrated to water down the popularity of the former member of Parliament for Mt Darwin South, who is seen as a threat to Mnangagwa’s re-election bid 2023.
“So Bishop Mutendi went to the province and spent two weeks in Mt Darwin. After the trip he advised his friend (Mnangagwa) that if the party does not work on converting the people of Mt Darwin to support the second republic they would have problems in the near future. That is how the idea to take the celebrations to Mash Central came about,” he said.
The infrastructure in Mt Darwin South was not permitting of many of the activities held at the event.
“Provincial leadership from Mash Central had suggested that the celebrations be held in Bindura, but the President himself insisted on Mt Darwin, despite there being no infrastructure for the event. He told the organisers to ensure that the facilities are available for the event. Basically the idea was to try and neutralise Kasukuwere’s influence and also to an extent my influence because we both come from the same constituency,” he said.
“There were tents pitched everywhere and the Uhuru Cup match was held in a field that did not have the resemblance of a stadium.”