Saviour Kasukuwere on Monday declared that he is returning to Zimbabwe to run for president, an unexpected political twist ahead of general elections on August 23.

The 52-year-old former Zanu PF political commissar and key member of Robert Mugabe’s last cabinet before his 2017 ouster by the military, lives in self-imposed exile in South Africa.

He briefly returned home in January 2018 and was arrested on corruption charges, which were later tossed by a court but not before he left the country again.

Speaking to ZimLive by phone, Kasukuwere said he had no concerns for his personal safety.

“I don’t fear jail, I don’t fear death,” he said. “I only fear for the future of the country if we do nothing.”

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has called elections for August 23, and all parties must register their candidates with the nomination court on June 21.

“There’s still a lot of time,” Kasukuwere insisted.

The former local government minister said he would lay out his political strategy in the coming days, declining to say if he would form a party or run as an independent.

“Since making the decision to run for president, a lot of positive developments have taken place requiring that we revise our overall plan,” Kasukuwere said.

“I read somewhere Vice President Chiwenga saying that we should not deny each other political space merely because we differ on ideas and views. He spoke like a liberator. Let the best ideas win. I am in a unique position that I have worked with those in Zanu PF and have also now got an appreciation of the opposition to understand where they are coming from. We want to straddle these two competing positions.”

Many political analysts say the 2023 election is likely a two-horse race between Mnangagwa and Citizens Coalition for Change president Nelson Chamisa, who narrowly lost a disputed election in 2018.

It remains unclear what dividend, if any, Kasukuwere can gain from Mugabe loyalists still bitter over how he was removed from power, before his death in Singapore in 2019.