FORMER Finance minister Simba Makoniâ€™s presidential bid was the brainchild of former liberation war commanders and army generals who since March last year have been plotting leadership renewal in Zanu PF.
Information gathered by the Zimbabwe Independent revealed that former members of the general staff during the war of Independence met twice in Harare last March and agreed to approach President Mugabe and tell him to quit politics at the end of his current term.
Among the commanders, reportedly drawn from both Zanla and Zipra forces, were former army generals Solomon Mujuru and Vitalis Zvinavashe, Youth minister Ambrose Mutinhiri, suspended Attorney General Sobusa Gula-Ndebele, and ex-Home Affairs minister Dumiso Dabengwa. Makoni is also working openly with retired Major Kudzai Mbudzi and Colonel Moses Dendere.
Apart from the commanders, sources said, Vice-Presidents Joice Mujuru and Joseph Msika and party chairman John Nkomo were in Makoniâ€™s camp despite their shrill denials and exhibitions of allegiance to Mugabe.
The sources said contrary to Mugabeâ€™s claims on Wednesday that Mujuru had distanced himself from Makoni, the former lawmaker for Chikomba was the chief architect of the project to oust the 84-year-old leader.
Mugabe told the state media after his rally at Hama High School in Chirumhanzu, Midlands, that on Monday he met Mujuru who denied being party to Makoniâ€™s bid.
According to Mugabe, Mujuru said he turned down an invitation to join the former deputy secretary of finance in the politburo to avoid dividing Zanu PF and “render(ing) untenable” the political career of his wife, Vice-President Joice Mujuru.
But our sources insisted yesterday that Mujuru and other army generals were solidly behind Makoni and would soon come out in public backing the challenger. Despite Mugabeâ€™s claims Mujuru is yet to comment publicly on Makoniâ€™s candidacy.
Mujuru, the sources said, using his strong military and intelligence connections, was instrumental in coming up with Makoniâ€™s military campaign strategy.
Under the strategy, there would be well-timed abandonment of Mugabe by Zanu PF bigwigs backing Makoni, roping in state security agents, especially army officers known as the “Boys on Leave” currently deployed in constituencies and wards throughout the country to mobilise support for Zanu PF.
The Boys on Leave are specialists in vote-rigging and stole the 2002 presidential election on behalf of Mugabe.
Makoni would use the Boys on Leave to campaign for his election and that of Zanu PF councillors, Senators and members of the House of Assembly.
The sources said when the commanders met last March at the two meetings reportedly chaired by Mujuru, they agreed to lure Rural Housing and Social Amenities minister Emmerson Mnangagwa into their sensitive programme.
“They wanted Mnangagwa to set up an appointment for them with Mugabe, but he reminded them that during the liberation war they agreed that members of the general staff should not dabble in politics,” one of the sources said.
Mnangagwa was Mugabeâ€™s personal assistant in Mozambique, while Gula-Ndebele and an influential group of guerillas backed the president to seize control of Zanu PF during a turbulent period of the liberation war in the mid-1970s.
They are reported to have sent a message through Msika that they wanted to meet Mugabe. Msika tried to set up a meeting but Mugabe refused and flew out to the Sadc summit in Tanzania.
The sources said Mujuru, Dabengwa and Zvinavashe then resolved to oppose Mugabe at party meetings.
The sources said from last March, Mujuru, Dabengwa and Zvinavashe constantly opposed Mugabe during politburo meetings.
Their opposition to Mugabe became intense when Mugabe, through Mnangagwa, roped in fired war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda to spearhead his campaign.