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Fired MDC-T secretary-general and ex-finance minister Tendai Biti has made sensational claims that MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai wanted him out of Cabinet as far back as 2010, but the planned purge couched in the form of a reshuffle was blocked by President Robert Mugabe.

Biti, who was "axed" as MDC-T secretary-general in April this year after an attempted "palace coup" on Tsvangirai, told NewsDay in an exclusive interview last Friday that his rivalry with the former Prime Minister dated back to that period.

"It is true, I was told by officials from government and from the Prime Minister's Office that the reshuffle was targeting me and [former Energy minister Elias] Mudzuri," Biti said.

Biti is now leading the Renewal Team, a political outfit made up of disgruntled former MDC-T party members opposed to Tsvangirai's continued stay at the helm of the labour-backed party.

Tsvangirai's mini-Cabinet reshuffle, which came 16 months after the formation of the unity government, eventually claimed the scalps of Mudzuri, ex-Housing and Social Amenities minister Fidelis Mhashu, Women Affairs deputy minister Evelyn Masaiti and Youth deputy minister Thamsanqa Mahlangu.

The reshuffle, which only affected ministries under the ambit of the MDC-T, saw former Home Affairs co-minister Giles Mutsekwa being reassigned to the Housing and Social Amenities portfolio, while Elton Mangoma replaced Mudzuri.

Theresa Makone was shifted from her Public Works portfolio to become Home Affairs co-minister, while Gorden Moyo became the Minister of State and Parastatals from his post as Minister of State in the PM's office.

A highly-placed Zanu PF government official also confirmed that Mugabe stood his ground and blocked Biti's removal, arguing that the finance portfolio was "too sensitive" and could not be tampered with.

"Mugabe strongly condemned the move to have Biti removed from the Finance ministry, saying it was a sensitive portfolio and he had not seen anything untoward with Biti's performance," the official said on condition of anonymity.

"In one of the meetings with Biti, Mugabe personally confronted the former Finance minister and asked him what wrong he had done to the Prime Minister."

Biti confirmed being quizzed by Mugabe to explain the source of his rift with Tsvangirai.

The source said Tsvangirai had told Mugabe that Biti was "troublesome" and unfit to remain in government as he was allegedly stifling the smooth implementation of the Global Political Agreement.

Mugabe and former Deputy Premier Arthur Mutambara reportedly shot down the proposed elimination.

"The reshuffle was targeting people who had been perceived as threats to Tsvangirai; those people independent financially and mentally to pose a threat to the MDC-T leader," the source added.

Mudzuri has already declared an interest to challenge Tsvangirai at the party's elective congress in October this year.

But Tsvangirai spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka yesterday dismissed the claims as speculative and meant to divert attention, saying it was in fact Mugabe who had wanted Biti dismissed from the inclusive government.

"We cannot comment on things that did not happen. Anything else is speculation. It was Mugabe who actually wanted Biti fired, saying he was refusing to release money, but Tsvangirai refused telling Mugabe that he could not choose ministers for him," Tamborinyoka claimed.

Sources, however, insisted that the feud between Biti and Tsvangirai started when they were still in government.

The sources cited an incident where towards the end of the inclusive government, Makone publicly accused Biti of being sponsored by Zanu PF to destroy Tsvangirai's pillars of support.

In her speech, Makone warned that Biti would be made a backbencher if MDC-T won the presidency.

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