Zim’s Saviour an enigma

2012-03-10 09:01

Saviour Kasukuwere, the Zimbabwean government minister who has become the bane of foreign-owned businesses, is an enigma.

Zimbabwe’s youth development, indigenisation and empowerment minister has his eyes set on Implats subsidiary Zimplats if the South African owners do not comply with orders to hand over more stakes in the company to black people by the end of this week.

The 41-year-old minister is different things to different people. His flashy lifestyle has earned him the “Kenny Kunene of Zimbabwe” moniker, while his political rhetoric rings of Julius Malema at his fieriest.

To friends and family members, Kasukuwere, a former boxer, is affectionately known as “Tyson’’.

Colleagues in Zanu-PF see him as the proverbial “Young Turk” whose political star is on the rise.

He has come a long way from the days when he was part of President Robert Mugabe’s security detail in the dreaded Central Intelligence Organisation.

In fact, some in Zanu-PF’s ranks look favourably on Kasukuwere’s age, as he is the youngest-serving Cabinet minister from the party and covert talk has been taking place in the faction-riddled Zanu-PF that Kasukuwere could be a successor to the 88-year-old Mugabe.

After all, his political credentials are “tried and tested” – a prerequisite for climbing Zanu-PF’s ladder.

He has a track record of experience. As an MP for the Mount Darwin constituency since 2000, he enjoys the backing of the militant-styled youth empowerment outfits Chipangano and Upfumi Kuvadiki (Wealth to the Young) and has been in government circles since 2005, where he served as the deputy minister of youth development and employment creation until 2009.

A close ally of Kasukuwere, Zanu-PF politburo member Jonathan Moyo, said: “Kasukuwere has been given a serious mandate under his portfolio in empowerment and youth, but the jury is still out on him, although he has already shown some skills people didn’t think he had.”

If Kasukuwere harbours any ambitions to land the country’s top job, he has kept mum, instead focusing his energy on turning up the heat on foreign-owned companies through the controversial 51% indigenisation law.

As a result, foreign-owned companies Zimplats, Caledonia, Barclays, Stanbic and Anglo Platinum have had a run-in with Kasukuwere and have seen another side to him – an aggressive, tough and sharp-tongued minister set to enforce the indigenisation plans.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has labelled Kasukuwere a “thug bent on looting”, re-enforcing a view held by US diplomats in WikiLeaks disclosures, who also said he was a thug, but added he was “young, smooth and ambitious”.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai last year complained to Mugabe that Kasukuwere was the organiser of the youth-led violence that flared up in Harare – attesting to the young minister’s ambitions to shape the country’s politics through violence.

Last week, South Africa’s Implats, which holds an 87% stake in its Zimbabwe subsidiary, Zimplats, was on the receiving end of Kasukuwere’s indigenisation crusade as it received a 14-day ultimatum to meet the country’s 51% indigenisation law.

In a rant, similar to Mugabe’s belligerent speeches against the West, Kasukuwere shot down any overtures of leniency being extended to Implats.

“The problem with David Brown (Implats CEO) is that he talks too much. We are sick and tired of his delaying tactics. I don’t need to meet them over anything. Why are they coming to see me? I am not a zoo,” said Kasukuwere.

Observers say Kasukuwere’s influence has been catapulted by the indigenisation campaign, to the point where he could now talk down large on multi-nationals companies desperate to protect their investments in Zimbabwe.

Political analyst Charles Mangongera said: “For now Kasukuwere can bask in the glory. Only time will tell whether Mugabe considers him a part of his inner circle, or like Julius Malema was to President Jacob Zuma, he will just be a useful cog that will be cast away as soon as it has outlived its usefulness.”

Popular approaches of trying to unravel Kasukuwere have hinged on drawing comparisons with Malema, the embattled ANC Youth League leader who visited Zimbabwe in 2010 to see how “Comrade” Kasukuwere was rolling out the country’s indigenisation drive.

Like Malema, Kasukuwere has carved himself as a firebrand youth leader, to the point of almost sidelining the party’s official 60-year-old youth leader, Absolom Sikhosana.

He is champion of the poor, notwithstanding being a recipient of multiple farms, and runs successful businesses in oil, agriculture and tourism.

His acerbic tongue has seen him publicly chide Gideon Gono, the country’s Reserve Bank governor and a staunch Mugabe ally, as differences emerged over how to implement the 51% indigenisation law.

At times, however, Kasukuwere has seemed uncertain over how to implement the law and recently reacted angrily to questions asked by lawyer Derek Matyszak of the Research and Advocacy Unit on the glaring contradictions in the indigenisation law.

“I am not a lawyer, but the courts are there. If you are not happy with the policy go to the courts.”

Critics say the indigenisation drive is meant to canvass support for Zanu-PF, which after 32 years in power has nothing else to offer weary voters – and has now shifted to a takeover of mining companies.

But in an interview with City Press this week, Kasukuwere rebuffed concerns that the indigenisation law was an extension of Zanu-PF politicking.

“Companies have to respect our laws. It’s not about elections; it’s about fighting poverty and improving the wellbeing of our people.

“I am continuing with our programme to empower the people of Zimbabwe. We are our own liberators”.

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