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THERE was a verbal showdown as Zanu PF factions squared off in a no-holds barred politburo meeting called in the wake of outbursts by President Robert Mugabe over alleged attempts by party officials to block First Lady, Grace Mugabe from entering politics.

Although after the 10-hour Wednesday meeting, Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo claimed the deliberations were frank, candid but amicable,our news crew is reliably informed there were several confrontations with tempers flaring as factions fought.

Factions allegedly pitting Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa are locked in bitter fights in the race to succeed Mugabe, who turned 90 in February.

Things got to a head with the entry of Grace in the political arena, with the Mnangagwa faction reportedly claiming some officials from the Mujuru camp attempted to block her from leading the women's league.

Sources said Gumbo warned Mugabe in the Wednesday politburo meeting that the veteran leader risked being dragged into the factional fights.

"He (Gumbo) told Mugabe that he was being misled by the Mnangagwa camp that professes to love him while it was advancing its own agenda," a politburo member said.

Gumbo reportedly produced newspaper articles, including one by outgoing national deputy secretary for youths affairs, Edson Chakanyuka – a known Mnangagwa ally – who claimed Mnangagwa was second to Mugabe.

On Monday, Chakanyuka attacked Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa claiming he was abusing the Central Intelligence Organisation to advance the Mujuru faction.

Another Mnangagwa ally, Gokwe-Nembudziya MP Justice Mayor Wadyajena attacked Mutasa, claiming the Manicaland political supremo needed a bashing, while declaring his support for the Justice minister.

On Monday, Gumbo released a statement claiming that Mugabe was being misled by party members who claimed to love him while driving a regime change agenda from inside the party.

Women's League boss Oppah Muchinguri, who volunteered to relinquish her post to Grace and has been attacking Mujuru, is said to have claimed that she enjoyed massive support and was the pillar behind the VP's ascendency in 2004. She reportedly claimed she still enjoyed enormous support from the structures and could even win the battle for the VP post.

Mujuru is said to have dared the gender minister to challenge her at the December congress.

"Mujuru said she could not be continuously subjected to public abuse by Muchinguri simply because she campaigned for her to land the VP post in 2004," another senior Zanu PF official who attended the meeting, said.

Mbare MP Tendai Savanhu, who has also been accused of attempting to block Grace's political rise, reportedly said there were some officials claiming they had video recording of Mujuru claiming Mugabe was no longer fit to rule.

Savanhu sensationally claimed senior members (names withheld) were moving around saying they had evidence of Mujuru claiming that Mugabe was too old and using cow dung to plaster and warm his back.

Mnangagwa, who was said to be usually on the quiet side and allegedly speaking through proxies was said to be vociferous in the Wednesday meeting.

He is said to have attacked Mutasa for claiming that he was divisive, threatening to use deadly pesticide gamatox on people perceived to be his supporters.

Together with Saviour Kasukuwere, Patrick Zhuwawo and Muchinguri, Mnangagwa reportedly demanded the suspension of eight provincial chairpersons, except the Midlands and Bulawayo provincial chairpersons Jayson Machaya and Callistus Ndlovu respectively.

However, after having called for lifting of bans on suspended youths provincial chairpersons, Mugabe ruled that no provincial chairpersons should be suspended.

He tasked Zanu PF hairperson Simon Khaya Moyo to look into the suspensions of three youths chairpersons, Godfrey Tsenengamu (Mashonaland Central), Mashonaland West's Vengai Musengi and Godwin Gomwe, for Harare province.

All the suspended youths chairpersons have invoked Grace's name claiming they were being purged by the Mujuru faction for supporting her ascendency as cracks caused by factionalism continued to widen in Zanu PF.

The Mujuru faction had been accusing the Mnangagwa faction pretending to support the First Family to advance their ulterior motives.

The Mnangagwa camp was dealt a blow when Mugabe refused to nullify electoral results for the women and youth league claiming they were marred by vote-buying from the Mujuru camp.

Muchinguri is said to have once more clashed with Minister of State in the President's office, Flora Buka, on allegations that she abducted some female party members ahead of the women's conference.

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