A week before the military intervention that toppled ex-president Robert Mugabe in mid-November last year, Saviour Kasukuwere was addressing a Zanu PF crowd in Harare, and yelled: “Down with Emmerson ‘Border Jumper’ Mnangagwa!” I said to myself: “Boy, if by any chance Mnangagwa were to rule this country, this guy will rot in exile or prison, or worse!”
That was the time when Mugabe had just fired Mnangagwa as vice president for scheming to succeed him. Mnangagwa, fearing for his life, had just skipped the border. His rivals in the Generation 40 faction of Zanu PF where Kasukuwere was a member were having a big and loud party in town.
Things moved fast, as we all know, after Mnangagwa’s expulsion. The army laid out the tanks, put Mugabe under house arrest and it was Kasukuwere’s turn—together with his G40 sidekicks like Jonathan Moyo and Patrick Zhuwao—to skip the border as Mnangagwa returned home to rule. They had to run for their lives because they were being targeted for surrounding old Mugabe and corrupting an ill-defined Zanu PF legacy through their criminal activities that had brought suffering to the Zimbabwean lot, or so the army claimed.
Well, I was too naïve about Kasukuwere’s possible fate for denouncing the self-exiled Mnangagwa. Exactly six months and six days after taking the gap, he returned to Zimbabwe. That means he will not rot in exile. It doesn’t look like he will rot in prison either. Nor does it appear as if anything worse than exile and jail will visit him.
It took about a week before he got charged despite the police having compiled a docket against him ahead of his anticipated return. And that is only for crossing the border illegally. Kasukuwere’s brother, Dickson Mafios, went through a fast tracked “border jumping” trial and was slapped with an 11 month jail term, with the option to pay a paltry $300 fine. At the worst, Kasukuwere will receive more or less the same sentence as his brother and will be as free as a lark after paying a fine. He has already said he fled Zimbabwe through the Gonarezhou National Park.
But charging the two with “border jumping” was always going to be absurd, if not a weirdly selective application of the law and a bizarre contradiction to the new administration’s claim of fighting corruption without fear or favour. President Mnangagwa is on public record admitting that he skipped the border without following laid down procedures. He has not been prosecuted for that. At law, the goose and the gander are treated the same. That means “rule of law” in Zimbabwe is a very unkempt affair.
The manner in which the Mnangagwa administration has treated the Kasukuwere case betrays the duplicity of its purported anti-corruption campaign in the post-Mugabe era. It’s all clear that, far from genuinely seeking to root out corruption, the administration is using the anti-graft propaganda as a political resource to bring advantage to a powerful clique in the ruling elite rather than the nation, its citizens and the economy.
This is better understood if you situate Kasukuwere as a strategic political cog in the current Zanu PF politics. Even without hard evidence, it’s logical and sensible to speculate that Kasukuwere returned to Zimbabwe from self-imposed exile after calculated and smart negotiations with the current government’s top leadership, but more about this later.
Many people anticipated that Kasukuwere would be prosecuted for corruption if he returned home. Sensibly so. To start with, the army had branded him, alongside his G40 cronies like Moyo and Zhuwao, a criminal. He couldn’t be a border jumping criminal at the time of the military intervention in November because he had not skipped the border yet. That means he was a criminal for other things.
Some two weeks after the coup and when Kasukuwere had fled, Simon Khaya Moyo, as a cabinet minister and Zanu PF spokesperson, repeated the military claim. He described Kasukuwere and his G40 comrades as “fugitives from justice”. He said: “They were involved in corrupt activities.” Clearly, the corrupt activities that he was referring to are not crossing the border illegally.
To all intents and purposes, Kasukuwere must face prosecution for alleged corruption. Far from condemning him as a criminal before he is tried as all are presumed innocent till conviction in a court of law, it is in order that he be investigated and tried for the corruption allegations that he has faced in the past. There are many of them, but a few will be good enough to rub the point in.
In late 2017, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) opened a docket against Kasukuwere for the alleged criminal acquisition of 22 industrial stands in Mutare while he was Local Government minister. That would be abuse of office, which in turn implies corruption. We have not heard of what happened to the probe, but that doesn’t mean we mustn’t.
Zacc must either show good cause on why it shouldn’t proceed with the investigations but, more preferably, continue with its probe. Failure to do either would severely condemn the Mnangagwa administration. What’s quite telling, though, is that the administration is saying and doing nothing about this probe, despite the fact that Zacc operates under the direct supervision of the Office of the President and Cabinet after being moved from the Home Affairs portfolio some time back.
Similarly, Kasukuwere has in the past been accused of illegally selling State land to his cronies and private individuals. I am not making this up. In 2016, Mugabe generated news when he publicly accused Kasukuwere of selling off land acquired to benefit Zanu PF youths, women and civil servants in Chishawasha. Zacc latched onto the matter and launched a probe. Its results are—you guessed it—still just as mysterious as in the Mutare case.
Subsequent dossiers—never mind that they originated from Kasukuwere’s political rivals and disgruntled party members—claimed that the ex-minister had sold the whopping 300 hectares of land to numerous Zanu PF members linked to the G40 outfit. A Pentecostal prophet, Walter Magaya of the Prophetic Healing and Deliverance ministry, actually admitted buying part of the land for $300,000, gifting credence to the allegations against Kasukuwere.
Kasukuwere has also been accused of taking advantage of his tenure at the Local Government ministry to criminally roll out housing and business stands to Zanu PF youths in Kambuzuma, Chitungwiza and Bulawayo. But one issue that has largely escaped public scrutiny is the possible corruption involving Comoil, the fuel company in which he has a major stake. There seems to be strong evidence to suggest that Comoil was supplying the Harare City Council (HCC) with fuel when Kasukuwere was in charge of local authorities. That, again, would be abuse of office. You wouldn’t assume that the eyes and ears of the State haven’t picked this.
In any case, didn’t Kasukuwere build a massive three-storey mansion in Glen Lorne, complete with 50 bedrooms and elevators? You don’t build such an outstanding structure if you don’t have big money. And if you have that kind of money, people will naturally want to know where you got it from, not least because you have been reported to be owning half of Harare on your own.
The question, though, is: How come Kasukuwere has only been charged with jumping the border and the alleged corruption that led to his illegal flight from Zimbabwe is being ignored? There is a Whatsapp message that went viral last week. The message names 25 prominent individuals who the author insists are corrupt but won’t be prosecuted. One of them is Kasukuwere. What is interesting about this message is that it names him as a key accomplice of both Mnangagwa and ex-general and vice president, Constantine Chiwenga.
I can’t vouch for the accuracy of that message, but the significance of its reference to Kasukuwere, albeit ironical, is not lost. Politics knows no permanent enemies and sometimes spares space for memories of the good old days. Prior to the 2013 elections, Kasukuwere and Chiwenga were good friends. I am not sure what exactly brought them so close during that period, but it was clearly something big and mutually beneficial. That is what association, personal or political, is all about after all—mutual benefit. On the other hand, I never saw Kasukuwere holding hands with Mnangagwa tightly at any moment. There were telltale signs, though, when the two closed ranks to kick Joice Mujuru out of Zanu PF in 2014.
Kasukuwere seems to currently present political capital for the Mnangagwa-led Zanu PF. A well-known and much used Machiavellian tactic is to isolate some political foes and take them into your fold in order to weaken your enemy. It’s commonly called divide and rule. Kasukuwere was a vital element in the G40 scheme which had already formed the National Patriotic Front (NPF), a political spoilsport blessed and sponsored by Mugabe and his wife, Grace, and essentially meant to minimise Mnangagwa’s chances of winning the 2018 elections by dividing the Zanu PF membership.
It’s highly possible then, that the Mnangagwa team saw the golden opportunity to take Kasukuwere out of the G40 outfit, get him to sell some secrets around the formation and allow him to return home on the promise that he would be let to enjoy his freedom. This would, as it has already done, dampen and stun Jonathan Moyo, Zhuwao and Grace and fatally wound the NPF and Mugabe while keeping the new Zanu PF hopes of winning the election alive. On the other hand, returning home is good for Kasukuwere who, unlike Moyo and Zhuwao, has significant business interests in Zimbabwe to take care of.
In a bizarre stunt to save face, the Mnangagwa administration must be seen to have taken action against Kasukuwere hoping that we would be fooled into believing that it has delivered justice against the ex-commissar as promised. The border jumping charge against Kasukuwere explains this. But we know too well this is hot air. Even if he might be convicted, this is plain simulation of justice. The man they call Tyson remains untouched on the corruption allegations.
What does this mean? The Mnangagwa administration has done some barter trade and taken us on a ride in the fog. It has traded justice for political expediency.
Tawanda Majoni is the national coordinator at Information for Development Trust (IDT) and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was originally published by our media partner, the Standard (Zimbabwe)