Former Zimbabwean minister Saviour Kasukuwere has labelled Zimbabwe’s request for his extradition as ‘politics’, but the move could strain relations with South Africa’s ANC-led government even further.
Just days after ANC leaders jetted in, and out, of Harare in September to meet with their counterparts in ZanuPF about the political climate and economic meltdown in that country, President Emmerson Mnangagwa told a rally in Gweru he would ask South Africa to extradite loyalists of his predecessor, Robert Mugabe.
On Monday the country’s national prosecuting authority realised this threat by formally approaching South Africa for the return of former ministers Saviour Kasukuwere and Walter Mzembi, with prosecutor-general telling Business Day that both “had their cases before the courts, but they fled before their trials were completed”.
There is no formal extradition agreement between South Africa and Zimbabwe, but Prosecutor-General Kumbirai Hodzi said the request for mutual legal assistance from South Africa in this extradition case would be based on the Extradition (Designated Countries) Order of 1990.
Department of International Relations and Cooperation spokesperson Lunga Ngqulengelele referred Daily Maverick back to the Zimbabwean government to check whether the letter had been sent.
Kasukuwere said that “this whole matter is coming from when the ANC spoke to them [ZanuPF] about what they’re doing, so this guy is targeting me”.
He said Mnangagwa’s accusations at the Gweru rally, that he is “talking bad about us [ZanuPF] in South Africa” showed “this is much more political malice than anything else”.
Kasukuwere, Mzembi and Patrick Zhuwao, Mugabe’s nephew, met with, among others, ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and peace and stability subcommittee chairperson Tony Yengeni shortly before a planned 31 July protest during which government deployed the military during the Covid-19 lockdown. The meeting apparently irked Mnangagwa and caused some diplomatic strain with South Africa.
International relations subcommittee chair, minister Lindiwe Zulu, previously called the situation in Zimbabwe a “crisis” but appeared to have softened her position after last month’s meeting between the ANC and ZanuPF.
News outlets sympathetic to the opposition, such as ZimLive, reported that ZanuPF got a “rare chastisement” from the ANC, but pro-government news outlets reported that ZanuPF remained defiant. ANC delegates did not go on to meet other stakeholders in Harare and apparently returned a day earlier than planned.
Kasukuwere said the extradition request was “a game to try discredit what we told the ANC about their behaviour”.
He said: “The bone of contention is that we contend that the takeover of ZanuPF [in 2017] was illegal, it was a coup, and then the usurpation of power by Emmerson was itself a fully-fledged military coup… The rule-of-law has been thrown into the junkyard and Emmerson does whatever he wants”.
He said there was no constitutionalism left in Zimbabwe or in ZanuPF and that he and others who were formerly close to Mugabe are now paying the price for that.
Kasukuwere fled Zimbabwe after Mugabe was deposed but returned in 2018 to stand trial on corruption charges, which were then quashed. He says he is now in exile in South Africa as he doesn’t expect fair treatment in Zimbabwe, citing the case of how journalist Hopewell Chin’ono was detained for 45 days in a high security prison after he exposed alleged government corruption relating to medical supplies. Kasukuwere also cited a shooting incident at his house following the coup in November 2017 as one of the reasons why he is not safe in his home country.
Kasukuwere said the charges against him were quashed and, therefore, could not be reinstated. He also said an extradition request to Interpol in August last year failed because it was political in nature.
The Zimbabwe Herald reported that the extradition request relates to “four counts of criminal abuse of duty as a criminal officer”. The first three counts relate to when Kasukuwere was local government, public works and national housing minister and allegedly corruptly parcelled out over 220 hectares of land in Harare and Masvingo to the sister of former First Lady Grace Mugabe, Shuvai Gumbochuma. The fourth count relates to when Kasukuwere allegedly corruptly awarded a tender to Brainworks Capital when he was minister of youth, indigenisation and economic empowerment.
The Zimbabwe government’s earlier extradition request for Mzembi was still awaiting a response from South Africa. It relates to theft and fraud charges arising from when Mzambi was minister of tourism. DM