EXILED former Local Government minister and Zanu-PF commissar Saviour Kasukuwere yesterday hit back at President Emmerson Mnangagwa, saying the extradition order his administration was seeking from the South African government had nothing to do with criminal offences, but was a ploy to vindictively settle political scores.
He was reacting to government's call for him to be extradited to Zimbabwe to answer to four counts of criminal abuse of duty as a public officer during his tenure as minister.
He also said Mnangagwa wanted to fix him as a political rival and was angry that he, along with his exiled colleagues Walter Mzembi and Patrick Zhuwao, had taken the issue of rampant human rights abuses to South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) party.
Kasukuwere, a close ally of the late former President Robert Mugabe before his ouster via a military coup in November 2017, said he had no criminal case to answer, but was being persecuted for resisting Mnangagwa's rise to power.
"This is desperation by Mnangagwa. He knows I have no crime, but my crime is I was and still am against his takeover of the party using the military. He can't put a criminal charge against me after he told the Gweru provincial co-ordinating committee meeting that he was after me and the others who did not like how he took over the party," he said.
"It is political because Mnangagwa is my political rival and as he stands there, we have a dispute and he is using courts to threaten me. He can't threaten me and use it to fix political nemesis. That is abuse of power.
"I am not a character he can harass, I am not a criminal and all the criminal charges they have tried to stick on me have collapsed," Kasukuwere charged.
"This thing (has to do with) the ANC and this is the way he has chosen to respond to our calls for a solution to the crisis in Zimbabwe," he said in apparent reference to him and other former Zanu-PF officials exiled in South Africa engaging the ANC through its secretary-general Ace Magashule.
Magashule led a team of ANC officials who flew to Harare last month for a meeting with Zanu-PF officials, while insisting there was a crisis in Zimbabwe.
The ANC insisted there was a crisis in Zimbabwe, but Zanu-PF angrily denied there was a crisis accusing some ANC elements of working with Western diplomats to destabilise the country.
Mnangagwa told a meeting in the Midlands capital of Gweru that the G40 elements were spreading falsehoods against Zimbabwe and would ask South Africa for their extradition.
But Kasukuwere insisted he was not a criminal and he had nothing to hide or fear.
"I have come before and I am ready to come again and clear my name. Why did they not arrest me in November 2017 if they knew I was a criminal? They decided to shoot and try to kill me. I came back in 2018 and they charged me with border jumping. Then again later, the charges were dismissed. Politics of vindictiveness. Criminals are in charge of our country hence they rely on guns to threaten citizens," Kasukuwere fumed.
He is being accused of corruptly parcelling out over 220 hectares of land in Harare and Masvingo to the sister of former First Lady Grace Mugabe, Shuvai Gumbochuma, while the other arose during his days as Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment minister where the State alleges he corruptly awarded a tender to a company called Brainworks Capital without following procedure.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is seeking to have Pretoria extradite the former minister to Zimbabwe to face trial and the indictment papers have since been prepared.
However, the NPA, in an affidavit by one Nelson Mutsonziwa commissioned by chief law officer Chris Mutangadura to the South African government, claims there was nothing political about the charges Kasukuwere was facing.
"This request is not being pursued for political reasons or any ulterior purpose. Zimbabwe guarantees that Saviour Kasukuwere will receive a fair trial in terms of the laws of Zimbabwe. The Republic of Zimbabwe also undertakes to render assistance to the Republic of South Africa in any criminal matter," the request read.
Kasukuwere was acquitted after he was arrested for allegedly illegally skipping the border at the height of the military coup.
This followed rebuke by Pretoria over human rights violations including torture and abduction of activists.
Kasukuwere is one of the many G40 elements being pursued through criminal charges by Mnangagwa, including former ministers Walter Mzembi, Jonathan Moyo and Patrick Zhuwao.
Zanu-PF has accused the G40 of working to destabilise the party and government from exile but the former Zanu-PF officials have denied the claims while vowing to return the party to constitutionalism.