PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is said to be considering appointing four deputies in a bid to deal with the explosive issue of his succession which risks splintering his Zanu PF party.
Zanu PF heads towards a key elective congress in early December and Mugabe is under pressure to drop his deputy Joice Mujuru after she was accused of treason and grand corruption by the veteran leader's own wife.
But Mugabe is wary that side-lining and further humiliation of Mujuru – who had established a critical mass of support structures within and outside Zanu PF and government – could fatally hurt the ruling party.
And as part of a delicate balancing act of the competing interests in the party, Mugabe could name four different vice presidents, two deputising him in the party and the other two at State.
Said a senior party official: "As part of efforts to realign the party constitution with the national constitution Zanu PF has adopted a section that deals with power transitional mechanism. However there is a problem with a clause in the party constitution that relates to the women's quota."
The source said Mugabe did not want to anger the women's league by removing the section which was used to elevate Joice Mujuru to the vice-presidency in 2004.
"To go around this sticky situation and to ensure there appears to be a semblance of unity in the party as well as to avoid further humiliating Mujuru, we are likely to see two vice-presidents, one of which should be a woman at the party level and two state vice-presidents, the latter occupied by two different individuals. It is a distinct possibility, but then Mujuru has been rejected by the people in Mashonaland Central while the First Lady Grace Mugabe has literally ordered the president to dump his deputy," the source said.
The Zanu PF politburo this week adopted a series of recommendations to amend the party's constitution in a move that is meant to concentrate power in Mugabe's office with critics saying this has now rendered congress irrelevant.
The First Lady, in one of her many meetings with different groups, hinted that the Zanu PF constitution might either be amended or superseded by the national charter.
"The appointment of state vice-presidents is the prerogative of the president and while the party constitution says one of the vice-presidents should be a woman we must be cognisant of the fact that the national constitution does not say the same and it takes precedence in such situations," she said.
Political analyst Pedzisayi Ruhanya said the forthcoming congress of the ruling party that observers had hoped would provide an indication of who might take over from Mugabe will be nothing more than a "fuss".
"They are petrified of elections or anything related to a process whose outcome they cannot manipulate. They want processes whose outcome they already know before such a process is undertaken. It is a foregone conclusion, Mugabe will nominate people to both the politburo and presidium and everything now depends on him and those who are part of the ruling cabal," he said.
Zanu PF has been rocked by fierce infighting between two rival camps, one led by Mujuru and another by party legal chief Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Grace's entry onto the political stage has complicated matters after she launched vitriolic attacks against Mujuru and her allies. She has accused Mujuru of plotting to oust her 90-year-old husband.