ZANU PF is headed for renewed turbulence ahead of ongoing provincial elections which have proved chaotic in the past.
The polls will be a litmus test for Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s influence in the party, amid escalating internal fights linked to President Robert Mugabe’s succession battle.
Mnangagwa’s loyalists took over the provincial structures ahead of the disputed December 2015 congress after teaming up with Mugabe’s wife, Grace and Young Turks calling themselves Generation 40 (G40) to derail the ambitions of a faction led by former vice-president Joice Mujuru which had seized control of party structures in 2013.
But Mnangagwa and Grace’s allies are however now at loggerheads as they battle for control of the party following Mujuru’s expulsion.
Mnangagwa, elevated to the vice-presidency following Mujuru’s ouster, appears to be in the driving seat in the succession race, but faces a challenge from the Young Turks comprising Zanu PF political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere, Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo and Mugabe’s nephew Patrick Zhuwao, the main protagonists of the G40 group.
Co-Vice-President Phekelezela Mphoko is also a contender for the presidency amid indications he is building a national support base.
The provincial elections will be crucial in showing which faction holds the aces in Zanu PF following Mujuru’s demise. Intense factional fighting has already gripped the provinces.
Last week’s ouster of Mashonaland West acting provincial chairman Ziyambi Ziyambi has been linked to the succession battle. Ziyambi was, among other allegations, accused of leaking information to expelled former provincial chairman Temba Mliswa.
Mashonaland West provincial executive members passed a vote-of-no confidence on Ziyambi, accusing him of being dishonest and failing to prepare the groundwork for the election of a substantive committee.
Ziyambi, who was recently publicly attacked by Grace, is a Mnangagwa ally and his suspension suggests it will not be a stroll in the park for the VP’s camp.
The Mnangagwa camp however won elections in Mashonaland East where its candidate Joel Biggie Matiza was overwhelmingly elected before Mugabe removed him from being resident provincial minister.
In the Midlands, acting chairperson Kizito Chivamba, who stepped in after the ouster of Jason Machaya, is likely to face an acid test from former Zvishavane-Runde legislator, Larry Mavima, a key Mnangagwa ally. Both are however in the Mnangagwa faction.
In Manicaland, acting Zanu PF Manicaland chairperson Samuel Undenge is likely to be challenged by former chairman Mike Madiro. Madiro, a Mnangagwa backer, was suspended from Zanu PF in January 2013 amid allegations of fraud, corruption, theft, embezzlement and dishonesty at a time the Mujuru faction held sway. He was a replaced by Ambassador John Mvundura, a Mujuru supporter, who was suspended ahead of the December congress.
Provincial Affairs minister Mandi Chimene is also interested in the position and is campaigning.
Sparks are also set to fly in Harare where acting chairperson Godwills Masimirembwa was booted out last month.
The politburo on Wednesday deployed Charles Tawengwa as interim chairman for Harare province until elections are held.
Masvingo will see acting chairperson Paradzai Chakona fighting it out against Ezra Chadzamira, Amasa Nhenjana and Ailes Baloyi where Mnangagwa’s influence will also be tested.