ZANU PF politburo member Emmerson Mnangagwa and a clique of ruling party hardliners are pulling the strings behind the scenes in directing President Robert Mugabeâ€™s presidential election run-off campaign strategy.
Impeccable sources told the Zimbabwe Independent Mnangagwa and his team are working with Mugabeâ€™s loyalists within the Joint Operations Command (JOC) and in the party in a bid to ensure he wins the run-off by fair means or foul.
Service chiefs and top commanders, including General Constantine Chiwenga, police chief Augustine Chihuri, prisons commissioner Retired Major General Paradzai Zimondi, army chief of staff Major General Martin Chedondo, and Brigadier General David Sigauke have said they would not work under Tsvangirai if he defeats Mugabe.
The Mnangagwa team has been holding strategic meetings, including one with state editors last week, to prepare for the do-or-die second round of voting.
Mugabe was defeated by MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the first round although the opposition chief did not get the required majority to rule.Â
Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, a Mnangagwa ally since the Zanu PF Tsholotsho power struggle saga in 2004, chaired the meeting with the state-controlled media editors.
He gave them the editorial guidelines and political agenda to be followed during the run-off. Mnangagwa attended the meeting and was introduced to the editors.
The message from the meeting, and all other gatherings over the run-off, is Mugabe has to be retained while Tsvangirai has to be blocked at all costs.
Zanu PF hawks are in fighting mood to prevent Tsvangirai from taking over as they fear he would undermine their economic interests and prosecute all those accused of human rights abuses.
Tsvangirai recently called for Mugabe and his loyalists to be held to account for human rights violations as political violence resurged. This has alarmed Mugabe and his adherents, especially in the army.
The sources said Mugabe â€” given an eviction notice from State House by Tsvangirai in the March 29 presidential poll â€” has tasked Mnangagwa, Zanu PFâ€™s secretary for legal affairs, to secure his victory by all means necessary.
Mnangagwa is Mugabeâ€™s chief election agent and was his personal assistant during the liberation struggle.
Sources said Mnangagwa, Chinamasa, former Zanu PF Midlands provincial chair July Moyo and the war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda, among others, had taken over the running of the partyâ€™s commissariat and information departments.
Apart from seizing control of party structures, Mnangagwa and his group have eclipsed Information and Publicity minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu.
The state editors were told to report to Chinamasa, not Ndlovu.
â€œMnangagwa and his group are now in charge of key party and government departments,â€ one of the sources said. â€œThose expelled from Zanu PF after the Tsholotsho debacle are back in the Zanu PF fold to campaign for Mugabe.â€
The Mnangagwa group, the sources said, had sidelined national political commissar Elliot Manyika from spearheading Mugabeâ€™s latest bid for re-election afterÂ the president reportedly accused him of failing to come up with an effective presidential campaign strategy in the first round election.
â€œManyika will not play any crucial role in the countdown to the run-off,â€ another source said. â€œHe has been sidelined and it explains why he has gone quiet after the March polls.â€
Another casualty, the sources said, was the partyâ€™s secretary for information and publicity Nathan Shamuyarira whose role as Zanu PFâ€™s official spokesperson was taken over by a sub-committee on information chaired by Chinamasa.
Chinamasa has since the post-March election been speaking on behalf of the government.
â€œChinamasa told the stunned editors that the shareholder, Mugabe and his government, were not happy with the way they covered the elections,â€ a source said. â€œHe told them that from now on he was in charge of the state media outlets and that editors should brief him daily on all major political stories they will be working on.â€
Chinamasaâ€™s committee comprises ministers Olivia Muchena and Sithembiso Nyoni, Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga and information ministry permanent secretary George Charamba.
Mnangagwaâ€™s close ally and former Zimbabwe ambassador to China Christopher Mutsvangwa and the publisher of Zimbabwe Today â€” a pro-government obscure newspaper â€” Goodson Nguni, were also drafted onto the committee.