POLITICAL analysts say former cabinet minister and Zanu PF commissar Saviour Kasukuwere’s entry into the presidential election race set for 23 August will eat into President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s votes by splitting his support base, thereby boosting the prospects of opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change leader Nelson Chamisa.
Kasukuwere, currently self-exiled in South Africa, last week declared that he is returning to Zimbabwe to run for president, causing an unexpected political twist ahead of the August general elections.
In separate interviews, political analysts said in reality Kasukuwere does not stand a chance to win the presidential election, but he could dent Mnangagwa’s chances in favour of Chamisa.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Professor Eldred Masunungure told The NewsHawks that what is making Kasukuwere seem popular is the hype by the media after he announced his plan to enter the race to become the first citizen, but he no longer has a solid link with Zanu PF grassroots supporters to cause an upset in the coming elections.
He added that resultantly, Kasukuwere’s entry into the presidential race will benefit Chamisa. “I think the media is over-hyping the Kasukuwere entry into the presidential race in the sense that he is being overrated.
He has been disconnected from the grassroots for half a decade and whatever ties he had with communities have decidedly weakened except on Twitter platforms and this is a minute segment of the electorate.
“In light of this, I doubt that he will make a significant and compelling impact on the political dynamics, whether at the national level or in respect of the two main political parties.
“In the outside chance that he is impactful, I speculate that he will eat into his former party’s electoral base (i.e., Zanu PF) by splitting that support base and thus somewhat benefiting Nelson Chamisa and his CCC,” said Prof Masunungure.
Professor of world politics at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, Stephen Chan, said Kasukuwere’s entry into the presidential race will not have a significant effect of a “spoiler”, but could see him exposing startling revelations about internal Zanu PF frictions.
“This (Kasukuwere’s presidential bid) will have no effect on the final vote. Kasukuwere doesn’t have the well-oiled Zanu PF machine on his side. His candidature is of interest, however, not in terms of his being a ‘spoiler’, but in terms of what he might say about the internal faults of Zanu PF,” he said.
Political analyst Vivid Gwede predicted that Kasukuwere’s presidential run would be significant in eating into Mnangagwa’s votes.
“He might misjudge his clout, if he thinks that he would be anything other than a distant third, whose contribution at best is to lead to a runoff amongst the main contenders CCC and Zanu-PF.
“But he is more likely to eat into the traditional Zanu PF support base, his erstwhile home, and make its precarious position worse and more assured of defeat in this election. A crucial fact is that new voters registered aware of or persuaded by his late, but less-than-momentous entry into the race. “Kasukuwere’s political history is quintessentially Zanu PF and that is where his supporters are,” he said.
Kasukuwere reached the prime of his political career when he became the political commissar and key member of Robert Mugabe’s last cabinet before the longtime ruler’s dramatic 2017 ouster by the military.
Kasukuwere briefly returned home in January 2018 and was arrested on corruption charges, which were later thrown out by a court, but not before he left the country again.
He is also a former Environment, Water and Climate minister. Kasukuwere, Mnangagwa and Mugabe’s wife Grace teamed up to topple former Vice-President Joice Mujuru during his tenure as Zanu PF political commissar.
The alliance, however, fell apart when Kasukuwere and Grace were joined by another former minister Jonathan Moyo and members of the G40 group, which turned its guns on Mnangagwa.
Mnangagwa, with the assistance of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces led by General Constantino Chiwenga, now Vice-President, ousted Mugabe in the 2017 coup Kasukuwere, Moyo as well as former cabinet ministers Walter Mzembi and Patrick Zhuwao fled the country during the coup.
The ex-ministers face arrest over a litany of charges, including corruption. In October 2020, the government sought Kasukuwere’s extradition from South Africa after issuing a warrant for his arrest.
He has been battling to have it cancelled and may be arrested upon return if that does not happen in time before he comes back to mount his election campaign.
Although a grouping by the name New Alliance Zimbabwe has been purpoting to be a political party behind Kasukuwere on social media, the 52-year-old politician has not yet disclosed if he will deploy parliamentary, council, and senatorial candidates in the 23 August elections.