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HARARE – In a move that is set to open a new battle front in President Robert Mugabe’s warring Zanu PF, the party’s embattled national commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere (pictured), stands accused of defying his superiors and attempting to impose a rejected candidate in a Harare constituency in next month’s by-elections.
Well-placed Zanu PF sources told the Daily News yesterday that Kasukuwere was on a fresh collision course with Mugabe and his deputy, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, after the Young Turk nicknamed Tyson for his combative political approach wrote a letter to acting Harare provincial chairman Godwills Masimirembwa this week, ordering him to make sure that disqualified candidate Terence Mukupe runs for the Harare East constituency.
Were that to happen, this would be at the expense of Mavis Gumbo, whose name has already been accepted by senior party officials, including Mugabe and Mnangagwa, as well as the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec).
Besides this latest conflict point, Kasukuwere already stands accused of using his powerful post to impose his favoured candidates in party structures, many of them said to be fellow Young Turks in the party who are known as Generation 40 (G40) — and whose growing critics say want to depose their seniors from power.
There was a major ruckus in Mashonaland East recently when Kasukuwere intervened to reverse the ouster of acting provincial chairman Aeneas Chigwedere, which removal apparently enjoyed the blessing of Mnangagwa.
Politburo member and Higher Education minister, Oppah Muchinguri — who was once very close to Kasukuwere — also recently launched a stinging attack on the G40 claiming that they were over-ambitious and that they were allegedly preparing to dump Mugabe and his two deputies, Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko, on account of their of their advanced age.
The Daily News was yesterday shown a copy of the letter allegedly written by Kasukuwere demanding that they make sure Mukupe is imposed as the Harare East candidate and that Gumbo — who is close to the Mnangagwa faction — steps aside.
But the sources said Harare province was resisting “the pressure very strongly” and insisting on having Gumbo as the party’s candidate for the by-election, as per the big fishes’ directive.
To make matters worse, Mukupe has dragged party colleagues and Zec to court, challenging his disqualification to participate in the June 10 poll, despite having won the party’s internal primary elections.
“It’s a dog-eat-dog affair in Zanu PF as the G40 is moving at lightning speed to grab power from the seniors. Even the president is aware of the latest turf war for Harare East.
“Mukupe has been fingered as a member of the G40 gang and is apparently determined to do all he can to come in (get ahead of Gumbo). But there is strong resistance from the province (Harare) and even party leadership.
“Recently, Harare Province took up the matter with VP Mphoko who briefed the president. They were told that Mukupe does not fit the party criteria and were convinced and agreed with Harare Province that Gumbo should stand. But Kasukuwere is having none if it and is prepared to defy the party leadership to have his man in.
“It’s now clearly a war between the G40 and the party leadership,” said a Central Committee member privy to the case.
In his court application, Mukupe cited Zec chairperson Rita Makarau, the nomination officer Fiona Kurima, Masimirembwa and Gumbo — advising the court that he was the duly-elected Zanu-PF candidate for the Harare East Constituency by-elections.
In those annulled party primary elections, Makupe polled 651 votes, beating Gumbo who amassed 369 votes.
Through his lawyer Sylvester Hashiti, Mukupe also argued that his victory in the primary elections came after a huge struggle, since he was initially disqualified for lacking the requisite five cumulative years of service in the party at district level — adding that this came was after the province unilaterally made the conclusion without going through his Curriculum Vitae.
“The third respondent (Masimirembwa) had 24 hours to lodge any appeal or nullification of my candidature and victory according to the Constitution of Zanu PF, which he did not, leading to my confirmation as the official Zanu PF candidate for Harare East Constituency by elections on April 14, 2015,” he said.
He said after thumping Gumbo in the primary elections, he managed to successfully file his papers at the nomination court as the official Zanu PF candidate for Harare East Constituency on April 16.
Following the submission of his papers, Mukupe said he was asked to pay a $50 nomination fee, which signalled the completion of the filing and the acceptance of his papers.
He said after the finalisation of the whole process, Masimirembwa arrived at the nomination court with a photocopied letter allegedly authored by Zanu PF secretary for administration Ignatius Chombo, claiming that the party had withdrawn his candidature and replacing him with Gumbo.
Mukupe said his papers were eventually withdrawn and replaced with Gumbo’s documents.
He said he later demanded the original copy of the letter written by Chombo, which had no reasons for the withdrawal — but had not been furnished with the disputed document up to date.
“I immediately telephoned the political commissar (Saviour) Kasukuwere who was outside the country and he appointed an officer to write a letter confirming that I was the duly elected member for Harare East Constituency which was promptly furnished to 2nd respondent (Kurima) whilst the nomination court was still in session,” he said.
Mukupe told the court that despite the communication, Masimirembwa would have none of that and maintained that his candidature had been withdrawn.
“The presiding officer confirmed that my nomination papers were in order and could not be withdrawn in the manner that had been done but had received threats and her life was in danger if she acted otherwise,” Mukupe said.
He said the presiding officer adjourned the court at least seven times as she took phone calls from “different purported political heavyweights who instructed her to reject my nomination papers”.
Mukupe added that he was surprised to learn on national television that his candidature had been withdrawn. There were claims that he had submitted fraudulent documents, claims he has not yet been called to respond to up until now.