Tired of being on the receiving end of repeated blows from their post-congress Zanu PF enemies, as the ruling party's factional and succession wars continue to escalate, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa's supporters are finally hitting the campaign trail openly and earnestly.

Yesterday it was reported that Mnangagwa's supporters are, among a battery of other campaign initiatives, distributing hundreds of thousands of T-shirts, wrist bands and bandanas bearing the VP's images across the country.

This effectively means the battle lines are now truly drawn between the VP's supporters and those of President Robert Mugabe's controversial wife Grace, who has until now appeared to be gaining significant ground in the war to succeed the increasingly frail nonagenarian.

Sources close to the Mnangagwa camp said the VP's supporters were working to "spruce up his image" ahead of the eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections, with the Midlands godfather now affectionately referred to as "the leader of Team Lacoste" by his allies.

"Team Lacoste is now taking the ever-scheming G40 (the group of ambitious Zanu PF Young Turks opposed to Mnangagwa who are known as Generation 40) head-on. It is now game on," one of the sources said.

Another insider said the next few weeks were crucial and would determine "who has the power and requisite gravitas between Lacoste and Dr Amai".

In February this year, the VP issued a stern warning, telling a foreign company that he was trained to kill. He was officially launching his wife's election campaign for the Chirumanzu-Zibagwe by election.

Mnangagwa threatened unspecified action against Tongaat Hulett accusing the foreign-owned company of working with those plotting to oust President Robert Mugabe. When issuing the threats, Mnangagwa said during the liberation struggle he was trained to kill.

"As you heard before (from Political Commissar Saviour Kasukuwere) I was trained to shoot to kill the enemy. But now it's different. I will not shoot but will deal with these companies for their role with the gamatox," he said.

Meanwhile, as the Mnangagwa faction is ramping up its campaigns, Grace has also lined up several activities this week — including participating at a prayer session organised by popular preacher Walter Magaya and mounting the latest of her divisive rallies in Masvingo on Saturday.

A Mnangagwa supporter claimed that Grace's move to attend Magaya's "Turnaround Night" crusade was meant "to sabotage" the ruling party's fundraising dinner which will be held at the same time and is being headlined by Mnangagwa.

"We want to see who has more influence. Just wait and see the people who will support the VP," the self-proclaimed Mnangagwa ally said.
 
Communication from Magaya on Grace's attendance at his crusade said, "We are humbled to share with you that our esteemed guest of honour for the event is Her Excellency the First Lady of the Republic of Zimbabwe , Amai Dr Grace N. Mugabe".

Team Lacoste is said to have in its ranks the likes of Cabinet ministers Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, July Moyo, Christopher Mutsvangwa, Kembo Mohadi, Josiah Hungwe and Ignatius Chombo, as well as former Manicaland chairperson Mike Madiro and Cleveria Chizema.

On the other hand, team G40 is said to include Cabinet ministers Saviour Kasukuwere, Jonathan Moyo, Patrick Zhuwao and Prisca Mupfumira, as well as Senate president Edna Madzongwe, businessman Philip Chiyangwa and Zanu PF Harare province political commissar Shadreck Mashayamombe.

Well-placed sources in Masvingo yesterday said the provincial executive, which is believed to be aligned to Mnangagwa, had allegedly planned to frustrate Grace by snubbing her rally there.

One of the sources said Masvingo executive members were "desperate to avoid humiliation" from the G40 camp, following the recent move to suspend one of Grace's strongest allies, acting provincial chairperson Paradzai Chakona.

"After we heard that the first lady is going to reverse our decision on Chakona, we have decided to snub her rally. I want to tell you this province is one of the strongholds of Ngwena (Mnangagwa). So here, business will not be normal for the first lady. We are going to protest if the G40 reinstate Chakona. We can't go to Amai's rally and be humiliated in front of our people, so most comrades are saying it's better for us to show our true colours by snubbing the rally," the source said.

Chakona was suspended for attending Grace's Rushinga rally. Chakona and Manicaland party boss, Samuel Undenge, were the only two provincial chairmen who attended the rally.

At the same time, G40 insiders also said the camp would snub the Mnangagwa-led party dinner, and instead troop to Grace's rally in Masvingo, in a move that was meant to put down the VP and show that the first lady was enjoying growing popularity.

The ruling party will be looking for $3 million at the dinner, to meet all the expenses for its annual conference to be held in the resort town of Victoria Falls early next month.

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