Saviour Kasukuwere, a former Zimbabwean minister and a close ally of the late Robert Mugabe, has announced his intention to run for president in the 2023 election. His decision has raised eyebrows and questions about his motives and prospects.
Kasukuwere, who is currently in self-exile, was a prominent figure in the ruling ZANU-PF party until he was expelled in 2017 following a military coup that ousted Mugabe and ushered in Emmerson Mnangagwa as the new leader. Kasukuwere was accused of being part of the G40 faction that allegedly plotted to install Mugabe’s wife, Grace, as his successor.
Since then, Kasukuwere has been vocal in criticizing Mnangagwa’s government and calling for a national dialogue to address the country’s political and economic crisis. He has also hinted at his interest in returning to Zimbabwe and rejoining ZANU-PF, claiming that he still commands a significant following within the party.
However, his recent announcement to contest for the presidency has taken many by surprise and sparked speculation about his strategy and chances. He confirmed his candidacy on Twitter, saying:
Sophie good morning. The call has been made and yes I will be making a formal statement on my candidature. Thank you for asking.
Some analysts have suggested that Kasukuwere’s move is part of a plan to split the ZANU-PF vote and pave the way for an opposition victory. Mduduzi Mathuthu, the founder of the news website ZimLive.com, stated that Zimbabwe may be heading towards a presidential run-off. He said:
Saviour Kasukuwere running for president puts us in run-off territory
A run-off election occurs when no candidate in an initial election receives a majority of the votes. In Zimbabwe, this can happen if no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote in the presidential election. Factors that can lead to a run-off election include opposition vote fragmentation and allegations of electoral fraud.
Zimbabwe held its most recent run-off election in 2008. The election was contested between then President Robert Mugabe of ZANU-PF and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) announced that no candidate had secured the required 50 + 1 percent of the votes. However, Tsvangirai withdrew from the race shortly before the run-off, citing widespread violence and intimidation by Mugabe’s supporters. The run-off was widely criticized for being neither free nor fair.
Currently, the major contenders in the upcoming 2023 Zimbabwean presidential election are Mnangagwa and Nelson Chamisa, who leads the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC). In the previous 2018 election, Mnangagwa narrowly defeated Chamisa in a highly disputed poll. Chamisa challenged the results in court, alleging that ZEC had colluded with ZANU-PF to rig the election in Mnangagwa’s favour. The official results released by ZEC indicated that Mnangagwa won with 50.8% of the vote, while Chamisa received 44.3% of the vote.
Kasukuwere’s entry into the presidential race could potentially disrupt this binary contest and create new dynamics within ZANU-PF and among opposition parties. Some observers foresee Kasukuwere’s candidacy causing divisions and shifting loyalties within ZANU-PF, ultimately leading to significant realignments within the ruling party. Others predict that Kasukuwere may form an alliance with Chamisa or other opposition figures to challenge Mnangagwa’s legitimacy and authority.
Kasukuwere’s presidential bid carries inherent risks and uncertainties. While he may have some support from disgruntled ZANU-PF members and former G40 loyalists, he also faces hostility from Mnangagwa’s faction and resistance from some opposition supporters who view him as tainted by his association with Mugabe’s regime. His return to Zimbabwe may also expose him to legal troubles and security threats.
As the campaign unfolds, political strategists anticipate intense rivalries and intricate political maneuvers as candidates vie for the support of the electorate. The upcoming Zimbabwean elections mark a pivotal moment in the country’s political landscape. With Saviour Kasukuwere joining the race, the political atmosphere in Zimbabwe is poised for an unprecedented contest that will leave an indelible mark on the country’s future.