Saviour Kasukuwere. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Saviour Kasukuwere. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

Harare — Zimbabwean politician Saviour Kasukuwere, the former local government minister and ally of former first lady Grace Mugabe, has returned to the country, Zimbabwean media reported on Tuesday night.

TimesLIVE reported on Monday that Kasukuwere was ready to return from self-imposed exile, and potentially to face criminal charges.

Newsday said he was "briefly grilled by state security agents" before being freed.

The website of the state-owned Chronicle carried a long interview with him, in which he said he planned to stay out of politics, and focus on farming. Asked about corruption during Robert Mugabe’s reign, he said that was water under the bridge and it was time to move on.

Kasukuwere fled Zimbabwe in November 2017, when Mugabe was ousted by the military, and spent six months in SA.

Mugabe’s departure has paved the way for the country’s return to the international community, and Zimbabwe has applied to rejoin the Commonwealth.

Mugabe pulled Zimbabwe out of the bloc of former British colonies in 2003 after its membership was suspended over violent and graft-ridden elections the previous year.

The Commonwealth said it had received a letter dated May 15 from Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa applying to rejoin.

Member countries "very much look forward to Zimbabwe’s return when the conditions are right", said secretary-general Patricia Scotland in a statement from London.

"Zimbabwe’s eventual return to the Commonwealth, following a successful membership application, would be a momentous occasion."

Scotland confirmed that the Commonwealth would send observers to elections due in July or August, the first polls since Mugabe was ousted in November.

Mnangagwa has vowed to hold free and fair elections, and has pledged to revive the moribund economy by repairing international ties and attracting foreign investment.

Scotland called for "a credible, peaceful and inclusive [election] that restores citizens’ confidence, trust and hope in the development and democratic trajectory of their country".

Britain said in April that it would strongly support Zimbabwe returning to the Commonwealth.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson tweeted on Monday: "Fantastic news that Zimbabwe … wishes to rejoin the Commonwealth".

"Zimbabwe must now show commitment to Commonwealth values of democracy and human rights," Johnson said.

Zimbabwe had fractured relations with the West under Mugabe, who had held power since independence from Britain in 1980.

The government in Harare was not immediately available to comment.

If re-admitted, Zimbabwe will become the fifth country to re-join the voluntary association of mostly former territories of the British empire, after Gambia, SA, Pakistan and Fiji.

AFP and Staff Writers