As 2020 begins it drags with it a nagging pertinent question which 2019 posed to our national politics; one we must reflect upon with all the hopes and aspirations a new year inspires. Why not Saviour Kasukuwere?
It is an important consideration within our national pursuit for sustainable socio-economic development. Yet such reflection is made complex by the tragedy of our politics wherein Zimbabweans dictate that we must see only in black and white, Zanu PF or MDC, Lacoste or G40, all the while denying our future any flirtation with shades of grey best suited for the national interest.
Those daring to entertain the question are already condemned “enemies of the state”, a state beholden to the exclusive privilege of spent political elites that would rather see Zimbabwe wither and die with them, vindictively deny its inheritors. It has been the death of the political innovation Zimbabwe so desperately needs for the transformation we have had hope for.
Yes, Hope! It drove hysterical souls into the streets of November 2017 in misinformed celebration of a coup. That hope afforded President Mnangagwa goodwill and benefit of the doubt from Zimbabweans prepared to tolerate a reforming Zanu PF and state. I dare say even MDC would have had supporters rooting for a repentant Zanu PF. If that moment revealed anything it must be that politicians are weighed more by their ability to inspire hope into the future and less by their past misdeeds. Yet come 2020 the so called “new dispensation” has proved a farce presiding over the devaluation of hope. It justifies consideration for an alternative, hence “Why not Saviour Kasukuwere?”.
At 49 years old he has had nearly three decades of experience at the heart beat of Zimbabwe’s politics, rising from within Zanu PF’s youth league to an elected member of parliament and appointment to executive government.
After playing a key intelligence role during Zimbabwe’s fight against brutal Mozambiquean rebels along our Manicaland border Kasukuwere was amoung a generation of young politicians that broke into and navigated Zimbabwe’s post-independence exclusive politics. He became an ever present force of energy, boldness and determination, a political “Tyson”.
His drive to implement government’s indigenization and empowerment programe, in the face of systematic resistance, led to youth and local communities becoming the beneficiaries of programmes and funds created to support their economic participation.
The nation saw millions of dollars become available for empowerment and enterprise development within local communities long marginalized from opportunities for wealth creation. The bold initiatives were outdone by a hesitant and unsupportive government that failed to establish institutional frameworks to sustain them.
He remained undaunted by the systematic resistance and vilification of indigenization, including attacks from his ZANU PF party’s representatives in government. Saviour Kasukuwere is said to have once told the late Robert Mugabe that the President did not have support on indigenization from within his own government.
For his efforts that were clearly calculated to benefit ordinary Zimbabweans he was removed from that indigenization ministry post the 2013 elections. It was most likely due to pressure from within Zanu PF ranks in government concerned that his achievement in executing a government mandate would have become a powerful political platform for him.
The national impact could not be wished away. To this day our hope for economic growth based on broad participation remains simmering beneath the post-coup government policies favoring otherwise unwilling and uneasy foreigners at the exclusion of local more committed to our own economic transformation and equity.
Tyson’s political brawling was instrumental in inculcating the promise of empowerment into the economic DNA of ordinary Zimbabweans. The 2013 election convincingly won by Zanu PF was upon the gains of economic empowerment achieved under his watch.
Empowerment has remained the hope of local communities across the country, however much this “new dispensation” has sought to make it second class to foreign economic interests.
When he was moved to the “politically quieter” environment and climate ministry many thought his political presence would diminish. Yet Kasukuwere retained the public gaze, most notably as he rallied the government and international community in the fight against poaching and the wanton killing of elephants. That fight saw the judiciary imposing harsher sentences against poachers.
As local government minister he captured the headlines when he confidently took the fight to land barons ripping off desperate home seekers. It led to the establishment, by Cabinet, of the Land Commission of Inquiry into urban land allocations. He did it notwithstanding the financial muscle and political reach of the land barons that was indeed brought to bear upon him.
True, Kasukuwere’s time in government was not without allegations of corruption. Expectedly, the “new dispensation” government pursued his criminal prosecution. Knowing this Tyson still chose to return into the country to face the law and clear his name.
The Magistrates Court acquitted him of Initial charges of leaving the country illegally, ruling that he had to “run for his dear life” which was in danger following his home being riddled with bullets. The High Court of Zimbabwe subsequently quashed corruption charges against him, setting aside a magistrate’s earlier ruling which it determined was “outrageous” “biased” and made “under pressure from certain persons”. Tyson is a free man before the law, one forced into political exile.
What stands out from Saviour Kasukuwere’s service in government, that will likely play out most in the minds of Zimbabweans, is his passionate, bold and strong-willed brawling nature in furthering his mandate and the policies benefiting the people and nation. It is a record that demonstrates much probity in the exercise of his duties.
The Zimbabwean reality dictates that astute execution of government business is not enough to secure the condusive environment necessary for achieving the people’s aspirations? Political acumen and a tested resolve is critical to managing Zimbabwe’s complex adversarial political interests and engaging a disillusioned and divided people’s aspirations, while holding the nation’s centre together.
Kasukuwere was tried and tested in the exacting politics of Zanu PF, where he showed a talent for reading the political pulse and working with it. At his political heights as Zanu PF’s national political commissar we witnessed mobilization of the youth constituency in the “Million Man March” and subsequent youth rallies clearly calculated to redefine and renew Zanu PF.
His appointment as national political commissar seemed designed to have him at the heart of a Zanu PF party set on an inevitable path of political transformation. Robert Mugabe understood that it was a matter of transforming or dying for his party.
By the time the coup reversed a transformation well underway Zimbabwe had witness an old political guard outmaneuvered politically, only to have their political lifeline and its crippling entitlements now a threat to national interest restored militarily. Kasukuwere paid dearly for choosing to remain loyal to the Presidency than seek self-serving political expediency.
Even now we would have expected him to be spewing bitterness from the safety of exile, yet he seems to be exercising restraint. Zimbabwe is greater than the personal experience of one man. Rather, he has preferred to highlight mistakes of Zimbabwe’s government, past and current, calling upon shared responsibility and a new focus in the best interest of Zimbabweans.
It would not be a terrible bet that “Tyson” still holds some political cards to his chest. When, where and how he plays them remains his move in an increasingly restless environment, especially amoung socially and economically desperate Zimbabweans in communities that surely now remember Kasukuwere advocating for their economic empowerment.
These local constituencies had cultivated hope for economic opportunities to come their way. Such hope is a dying ember under the current austerity measures and policies advocating more for foreigners not providing any relief anyway. Ours is hope captured by a more ravenous entitlement and corruption.
It is hope fast faded within Zanu PF itself, where those tens of thousands of youth had been galvanized at youth rallies for the critical transformation of Zanu PF and, through its people centred policies, Zimbabwe. Then, they related to a new plan in which they were entrusted with forging their nation’s future. It’s a critical mass forced underground post the November 2017 coup and their captured party.
It is worth noting that this post-coup disenfranchised electoral mass has not seen joining the MDC as a political option. Their evident protest 2018 vote while embracing their Zanu PF party and its policies, rejected its presidency. They exist in a political vacuum, as if they wait for a signal to erupt back onto the political and economic scene decisively.
Their intent is apparent in the TysonWabantu movement picking up from the coup disrupted yet inevitable road toward political and socio-economic transformation. Kasukuwere’s ability to reengage this volcanic political mass will determine Zimbabwe’s political future.
It is not too far-fetched to imagine a 2023 election pitting Savior Kasukuwe leading a Zanu PF on the back of its 2018 two/thirds parliamentary majority, against Nelson Chamisa and his claim to a presidential victory that surely benefited from disgruntlement and apathy within Zanu PF’s post-coup vote.
So, Why not Saviour Kasukuwere? It is a question best answered on the political ground where the people’s memories and aspirations seek out hope and its promise of their Zimbabwe.
My parting biblical reflection is naturally on the spirituality of 40 and the hope associated with years of perseverance. Zimbabwe and its post-independence generation turn 40 this 2020. Could this be the true moment for a generation of 40 that must not to be condemned “enemies of the state” but whose aspirations and capacities shall have our Promised Land.
Hope inspired is a stubborn reality that shall make or destroy politicians.