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Panic has hit a faction allegedly led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru amid reports of mistrust among members, a situation compounded by allegations that the Zanu PF number two in command is linked to a plot to assassinate President Robert Mugabe.

Sources close to Mujuru said the faction had abandoned its regular meetings, allegedly regularly held at Mashonaland East provincial chair Ray Kaukonde's offices in the capital, as it became apparent the vice-president was on her way out.

Mujuru's anticipated fall, sources said, had also triggered panic in her family, with reports that some of her close family members had already left the country.

Insiders said some of Mujuru's children were now in South Africa.

"Some of her children are now in South Africa because they are mostly at the centre of the corruption allegations and the underhand diamond as well as gold dealings. The faction that normally meets at Kaukonde's offices have since stopped meeting because they do not trust each other anymore. There is a lot of finger-pointing with allegations among the faction members of selling out," one of the sources said. "."

Kaukonde is also believed to have left the country "on business".

The panic was part of the aftershocks following the suspension of party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo, expulsion of war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda and verbal reprimand in the politburo of secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa – all key Mujuru backers.

Gumbo and Mutasa were on Sunday accused by the state media of plotting to kill President Mugabe and replace him with Mujuru. But Gumbo denied the allegations, labeling them "hogwash".

Gumbo, who was suspended by the politburo last Thursday, and Mutasa were alleged by the state media of having "spoken of assassinating President Mugabe".

The state media claimed there was a "voice recording of Gumbo making the assassination threat, and a report to party authorities of Mutasa saying President 'Mugabe will be shot'".

But Gumbo, now in political Siberia after his five-year suspension, rebuffed the allegations.

"It is all hogwash. I would never ever say that of the President and they know it. The claims that there have an audio in which I purportedly said such things is also engineered. It is called audio-morphing and it is all rubbish," the former cabinet minister said yesterday.

Mutasa, seen as Mujuru faction arch-shock-trooper and now in the line of fire, declined to comment to the allegations of plotting to kill the president.

"I said I do not want to talk to the press," said Mutasa.

Minister of State in Mujuru's office Sylvester Nguni, who has often spoke on behalf of the Zanu PF second in command, also declined to comment on the alleged assassination plot.

"I have not seen the reports you are referring to because I am in the rural areas," Nguni said. "I will be in town later in the day and then I will get in touch with you."

The latest allegations against Mujuru and her hangers-on, the sources said, would sink the Vice-President who is allegedly tussling with Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa to succeed President Mugabe.

Mujuru has been under siege since the emergence on the political scene of First Lady Grace Mugabe three months ago to take up the position of Zanu PF Women's League boss left by Oppah Muchinguri.

The First Lady then embarked on a whirlwind tour of the country's provinces to "thank Zimbabweans for nominating her to the position".

She then opened a pandora's box when she lashed out at corrupt officials within the ruling party, before going for the jugular and openly attacked Mujuru as a faction leader who has been scheming behind President Mugabe with the assistance of the USA to effect regime change in Zimbabwe.

In the ensuing fall-out, a host of top Zanu PF leaders, mostly provincial chairpersons, have been ousted in a series of no-confidence votes, the suspension of Gumbo and expulsion of Sibanda.

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