Born on 23 October 1970, Saviour Kasukuwere is an experienced local politician who served under the late president Mugabe as Local Government minister between October and November 2017.

He was also Zanu PF national commissar from 2014 until the November 2017 coup which ousted Mugabe.

By the end of Mugabe’s rule, Kasukuwere had gained political clout, so much of his trust and confidence to an extent he was briefed by his boss in Mexico in May 2017 on the possibility of former Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi becoming his successor in December that year.

This became known as the Mexico Declaration. Kasukuwere was deeply involved in Mugabe’s succession battle, which is why when the coup came he was a target together with his erstwhile friend Professor Jonathan Moyo, a former Zanu PF MP and minister.

Moyo, a former Zanu PF political strategist who was part of the party’s G40 faction like Kasukuwere and others, tried to champion that proposition.

Besides that, Kasukuwere also has lot of political experience. He served as youth leader, deputy minister and minister in various portfolios and capacities.

On top of his political credentials and experience, Kasukuwere knows the lay of the land from his many years as a grassroots political operator.

He was also in the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), ironically as a junior officer when Mnangagwa was State Security minister in the 1980s. Kasukuwere is also an experienced businessman.

As a result of his political and business networks, he has managed to source significant resources to support his campaign.

Bellwether provinces

Kasukuwere comes from Mount Darwin in Mashonaland Central province where he was an MP. During the Mugabe times, Mashonaland provinces — East, Central and West — were bellwether regions whose electorates tended to reflect the voting behaviour of the entire nation in general, despite inconsequential variations.

Candidates supported in bellwether provinces in presidential elections generally end up winning the election as a whole.

However, winning the presidential election for him could be a bridge too far. Drawing from his credentials, experience and ethnic appeal, Kasukuwere is likely to erode Mnangagwa’s support base in Mashonaland provinces, creating a run-off or handing over victory to Chamisa.

Mnangagwa has deliberately or unwittingly fashioned himself as a Karanga President on the basis of clansmanship through his power base, appointments and symbolisms, hence Kasukuwere, a Zezuru political actor, may seek to exploit the ethnic faultlines to mobilise votes.

Even if Zimbabweans do not always talk about it, ethnicity has continued to shape and influence the economic, social, and political life of Zimbabwe since the achievement of independence in 1980.

After the toppling of Mugabe by Mnangagwa, Zezurus have generally been grumbling about the issue. This has fuelled ethnic polarisation within Zanu PF and in national politics, which Kasukuwere could exploit to dramatic effect.

However, Kasukuwere’s biggest albatross is his previous association with Zanu PF and all its excesses, which he admits.

“I have made many mistakes. I am not a saint,” he said.

The other challenge he has is that his messaging initially sounded like he is a Mugabeist and wants to continue from where the late former president Robert Mugabe left.

His public letter this week also read like he is still fighting Mugabe’s succession battle and Zanu PF internal wars dating back to the November 2017 coup which ousted Mugabe.