PRESIDENT Mugabe has for nearly a decade been aware of a growing plot by senior Zanu-PF officials to push him out by hook or crook and elevate Vice-President Joice Mujuru, but has bided his time before acting.
The President had information regarding the fairly elaborate scheme back in 2006, and played his cards close to the chest to avoid rocking Zanu-PF before the 2008 harmonised elections and during the inclusive Government's tenure (2009-2013).
The 2008 elections, which saw a clique aligned to VP Mujuru campaigning against President Mugabe under the slogan bhora musango, resulted in Zanu-PF losing control of Parliament for the first time since 1980, and the Presidential candidate having to retain office via a run-off.
Zanu-PF had to endure the ignominy of a five-year coalition Government with MDC-T and MDC — and recently, key VP Mujuru ally Cde Kudakwashe Bhasikiti (the Masvingo Provincial Affairs Minister) publicly pined for a return to that arrangement.
President Mugabe then engineered a brilliant campaign that saw him resoundingly win the 2013 elections, setting the stage for him to reassert sole control of Government and allow ideological realignment of the ruling party.
The plot entailed creating a competing centre of power with VP Mujuru acting as a de facto leader of the party and Government; recruiting MPs to push for a vote of no confidence in the President; seeking the support of oppositional MDC-T elements; and then ultimately humiliating President Mugabe at the ruling party's Congress in December. If all that fails, as has been reported previously by The Sunday Mail, The Herald, and by pro-Mujuru private paper Daily News, President Mugabe would be shot.
A source said, "Long before the upheavals of today, the President had been biding his time and giving room to those who would stab him in the back to reconsider their position. That gracious exit space was not appreciated — and today heads are rolling.
"Even after bhora musango, which itself was precipitated by VP Mujuru loyalists' anger that President Mugabe was standing for the 2008 election, the Head of State and Government thought there was room for rehabilitation of much of the faction.
"However, matters reached a head last year when VP Mujuru, who was Acting President as President Mugabe was in the Far East, secretly drove to a hostile Western Ambassador's residence at night without security details, and held a discussion premised on her boss' ouster.
"She then reportedly cooked a meal for the diplomat. The VP did not tell the President of her engagement with the diplomat upon his return. President Mugabe could not fathom how a VP could subordinate and denigrate the entire State in such a manner, and how his own deputy – whose elevation in 2004 he facilitated despite her relatively junior position in Government at the time – could plot his ouster in such brazen fashion."
Sources went on: "Another issue that indicated there was need for a clearing of the decks related to an incident around that same time in 2013 when President Mugabe was again outside Zimbabwe and VP Mujuru called for a Zanu-PF Politburo meeting. Her loyalists supported the meeting, whose agenda remains murky, while several senior Politburo members flatly rejected the call and pointed out that only Zanu-PF's First Secretary could sanction such a gathering. While this plan failed, the past year has seen VP Mujuru increasingly try and establish a competing centre of power by attempting to seize control of Cabinet and Politburo proceedings. She has been acting as a de facto chair and President Mugabe has been watching her quietly, gently trying to point out where she is erring, but again those overtures have not been met kindly."
A source said VP Mujuru often handpicked her factional supporters to dominate discussions while seeking to drown out alternative views. This entailed caucusing before Cabinet and Politburo meetings and agreeing on their own agenda for the discussions.
And in November 2013, she interrupted the President as he spoke during an Extraordinary Politburo meeting, which – among other issues – tackled media reports concerning factionalism in Zanu-PF.
Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Dr Obert Mpofu remonstrated that the VP's interjections were disrespectful.
Another source said, "What is happening now did not start spontaneously. The President has always known about it (the plot). He was working hard to ensure there would be no such major fallout but there is no way he can steer the party and Government when there is a competing centre of power."
Sources said the plot to oust President Mugabe began in 2006.
A clique of senior Zanu-PF officials aligned to and led by VP Mujuru opposed a proposal to push the Presidential election from 2008 to 2010 when parliamentary polls were due so that the ballot would be harmonised.
Instead, they wanted a harmonised 2008 poll, which they thought President Mugabe would not stand in.
The result was bhora musango, and many MPs getting far higher vote returns than President Mugabe in their constituencies.
A leaked American Embassy in Harare cable released by whistleblower website WikiLeaks indicates that Mbire National Assembly representative Cde David Butau told United States officials on 31 May, 2007 that VP Mujuru's husband, (Retired) General Solomon Mujuru would "act decisively within the next four to five months to unseat Mugabe".
Cde Butau, while requesting US government assistance in the plot, boldly said, "the Mujuru faction" only wanted to protect its vast business interests.
"Butau contended that Zanu-PF was headed for a train wreck, with one faction led by Mugabe determined to stay in power at any cost and another faction led by Mujuru desperate to save its business interests," reads the cable.
"Butau asked Poloff (political officer) that the USG (US government) quietly support the reformist element of Zanu-PF in this battle. While it was important to maintain the heat on Mugabe and his circle, Butau said US policy also had to cultivate contacts with Mugabe's intra-party opponents, and not just those outside the party."
The US, following these discussions, began funding parliamentary programmes during the inclusive Government era to get legislators to pass a vote of no confidence in President Mugabe. The plan involved securing the legislature's key posts, including that of Leader of Government Business in the House.
In 2009, VP Mujuru reportedly arranged with MDC-T women's assembly chair Mrs Theresa Makone to catapult Goromonzi West National Assembly member Cde Beatrice Nyamupinga to the helm of the Parliamentary Women's Caucus.
This was despite Cde Monica Mutsvangwa having beaten Cde Nyamupinga in Zanu-PF primaries.
Investigations show that the Americans then tried to build support for a vote of no confidence when the new Constitution was enacted in May 2013, a year-and-a-half after VP Mujuru reportedly met former US Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Charles Ray secretly on the outskirts of Harare.
CIA spy Mr Eric Ryan Little was posted to the US embassy in July 2013 under the cover of second secretary (parliamentary affairs) with a brief to recruit legislators to the plan.
Mr Little has met Cdes David Butau, Beatrice Nyamupinga, Temba Mliswa, Amos Midzi, Simbaneuta Mudarikwa, Paul Mavhima, Enias Damani Diamonds Mumvuri, Daniel Mckenzie, Jospeh Mapiki, Tapera Machingauta, Ladislus Ndoro, Tendai Makunde, Byton Mike Musaka and Christopher Mutematsaka among others.
He has also met MDC-T legislators James Maridadi, Eddie Cross, Willas Madzimure and Reggie Moyo.
The second stage of the scheme involved mobilising support to oust the President at Zanu-PF's December National Congress and replace him with VP Mujuru.
Provincial chairs — nine of whom have now been booted out — were tasked to lead this part of the plan.
One of the chairs last month confided to the The Sunday Mail that VP Mujuru had American backing to push out President Mugabe.