PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s recent Cabinet reshuffle might have delivered a telling blow on Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere and Zanu PF Young Turks’ bid to stall Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s march towards the Presidency.
Kasukuwere was moved to his new portfolio in July. He was, however, left hanging by a thread, after Mugabe decided to create a whole new ministry to take charge of the influential traditional leaders, as well as the ruling party’s rural strongholds headed by Abednigo Ncube.
Ncube, now Rural Development and Preservation of National Heritage minister, has been given charge of traditional leaders and all rural district councils, leaving Kasukuwere with the public works part, as well as urban councils.
Kasukuwere is reportedly locked in a bitter tussle with Mnangagwa for control of the ruling party, as competing factions angle for 91-year-old Mugabe’s throne.
Kasukuwere refused to discuss the issue.
“I do not speak on those issues, talk to the government spokesperson. They are beyond my control,” he said. Political analyst Eldred Masunungure said while the decision to split the ministry, could have been “politically innocent”, it was difficult to divorce any move by Mugabe now from the succession issue.
“There could be multiple motivations behind the restructuring. It must be noted that the old ministry was heavy in terms of the responsibilities and even without ulterior political moves or partisan political considerations, it needed to be pruned.
“However, traditional leaders are regarded as very influential tools or instruments in the hands of those in power. Mnangagwa, if he was consulted, might have felt uncomfortable, his new rival (Kasukuwere) controlling the rural areas and the traditional leaders,” he said.
“Zanu PF politics always looms large over any decision. The politics of succession is always lurking, whether as a primary or secondary consideration. It is fair to assume that one of the Vice- Presidents and in this case Mnangagwa might have played a role in the decision.”
Asked whether traditional leaders had an input on the decision to move them into a different ministry, Chiefs’ Council President Fortune Charumbira said: “On that issue I will comment later,” but his mobile went unanswered later.
Academic Ibbo Mandaza said most of the assumptions were fuelled by reports of infighting within Zanu PF.
“I am of the view that Mugabe just wanted to give someone a job. The traditional leadership institution is in a way an extension of the State, but a weak and vulnerable extension. Chiefs have a marginal role in the overall political interplay either within the party or in the bigger scheme that is the State,” he said.
Another political analyst, Pedzisai Ruhanya, said Mugabe had literally pulled the proverbial rug from under Kasukuwere’s feet.
“Mugabe and, whoever advises him, have realised Kasukuwere is ambitious and wants power, hence, they have clipped his wings. It is about containing him. They have removed him from the rural power base as a minister. Remember how former Local Government minister [Ignatius] Chombo [and now Home Affairs minister] used to throw his weight around just a few months ago,” he said.
“He was whipping traditional leaders into line ahead of and during the Hurungwe West by-elections; Kasukuwere has lost that soft power. Traditional leaders are important in endorsing any Zanu PF leader and if they reject you, then you are done. Now Kasukuwere has lost that critical mass and coupled with his public fall-out with war veterans, his situation looks even bleaker.”
Insiders claim a lot of considerations were at play regarding traditional leaders that opponents of Mugabe’s administration claim have abetted the 91-year-old and his Zanu PF party’s excesses, including turning the rural areas into no-go areas for opposition prior to and during elections.
When Kasukuwere was appointed Local Government minister it was largely agreed by political watchers that he had been promoted from his then Water Affairs portfolio. newsday