JUSTICE, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa escaped death by a whisker when his Mercedes Benz was rammed on the driver's side by a staff bus belonging to Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals along Herbert Chitepo Avenue in Harare yesterday evening.
Mnangangwa could challenge Vice-President Joice Mujuru for the vice-presidency at the Zanu PF congress in December in what could be a defining face-off in the pair's bitter and divisive fight to succeed Mugabe, who turned 90 this year.
Witnesses said the minister was driving along Hebert Chitepo Avenue heading towards the east when the other vehicle, which was travelling in the opposite direction, made a sudden turn, encroaching into the right hand lane, resulting in the impact with the minister's car.
Both right side doors on the minister's vehicle were extensively damaged while the other vehicle sustained minor frontal damages.
The incident, which happened between 7 and 8PM, occurred close to the American embassy in Harare's Avenues area.
On arrival at the scene, minutes after the accident, Mnangagwa, who had been driving alone, had been whisked away by his aides.
His condition could not be immediately established although Zanu PF deputy chair for Midlands Larry Mavima, who had arrived at the scene, said he was in good shape.
"He was alone. His security aides had been dispatched home. He was driving home. The minister was driving home going east using the normal speed, normal traffic hours and out of the blue, a kombi belonging to Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals which was driving in the opposite direction all of a sudden made a right turn into the minister's car.
"There is no other road that he could have been turning into so we are a bit concerned by that kind of behaviour. Whether it was intentional or whether he was drunk l am sure the police will have to find out what was the reason for him to make such a sudden turn and at such high speed, extremely high speed, targeting the minister's car," Mavima said.
Mavima, a former Zanu PF legislator and Mnangagwa ally, said Mnangagwa was in good shape when he left the scene.
"The minister is fine; not even a scratch on him. We thank God, the Man upstairs looked after him but he will be okay. Naturally under such circumstances, he will get checked out by the doctors. When he left he was in very good spirits, he was in fact more worried about us than himself."
An eye witness who saw the incident happen said Mnangagwa was pulled out of the wrecked car by what he believed were his aides who were driving close to his car.
"He looked fine. I actually spoke to him and the next thing he was immediately on his phone," he said.
The minister escaped unhurt and went home after the accident.
The accident, which left the minister's vehicle extensively damaged, occurred at 6:25pm near the US Embassy.
Minister Mnangagwa was driving home alone.
The minibus, registration number GHCW 1453, belongs to Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals' Ophthalmic School of Nursing.
A donation from the European Union, the minibus was travelling due west while Minister Mnangagwa was driving to the east.
There is no junction where the accident occurred.
Eyewitnesses said the driver of the minibus Mr Muchena Tsikirai (41) made an instant U-turn and hit Minister Mnangagwa's vehicle on the right.
The front and rear doors were damaged, while the airbags all popped out.
Mnangagwa's vehicle was toured away while the minibus was impounded by the police.
Former Zanu-PF legislator for Zvishavane-Ngezi, Larry Mavhima, who was on the scene said: "The minister was driving east along Herbert Chitepo close to the American embassy. Out of the blue, the Kombi which was going in the opposite direction decided to turn to the right into the minister's car. They collided and caused a severe impact which could have cost the minister's life. We are very concerned about the driving habits of people that drive public transport. We are concerned about the safety of senior Government officials."
He said Minister Mnangagwa was "fine".
"The minister is fine, fit and healthy but as a precaution he will be attended to by his doctor but we are more worried about him than he is. There is no other road here he (Tsikirai) could have been turning into. Whether it was intentional or if he was drunk, the police will find out. There is not even a scratch on the minister. When he left he was in good spirit. We thank God", said Mavhima.
Mr Tsikirai claimed it was Minister Mnangagwa who made a U-turn causing the accident.
In his recorded statement to the police, he said: "I was driving staff bus registration number HCW 1453 along Herbert Chitepo towards the west when a white Mercedes Benz suddenly made a U-turn in front of me. Then as I moved towards the opposite lane of the road so as to avoid it, I crashed into it."
In an interview with, Mr Tsikirai said he was taking his nine months pregnant wife, Jemina Mukozho (40) to Westend Hospital.
"I was taking my wife to Westend. She is nine months pregnant. I am told she is in a stable condition," he said.
Mr Tsikirai of Epworth claimed he only knew the Mercedes Benz belonged to Minister Mnangagwa after the accident.
"I only knew it was the minister in the Mercedes Benz when I heard people saying so."
He was not visibly shaken and demanded his licence from traffic police who attended to the accident.
Efforts to get a comment from Minister Mnangagwa were fruitless.
In December 2011, Minister Mnangagwa was involved in another car accident which turned fatal after a cyclist who was driving in the opposite direction was hit and died on the spot.
"The accident involved a driver by the name Termius Shumba and occurred at the 76-kilometre peg in Selous. A cyclist travelling in the opposite direction was hit and died on the spot," said then National Police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena.
THe accident occurred just a week before Zanu PF's 12th annual conference which took place in Bulawayo.