STAKES are high in the ruling Zanu PF party as Joice Mujuru and Oppah Muchinguri hurled barely disguised jibes at each other Thursday while welcoming delegates to the sixth Women's League conference in Harare.
Muchinguri, who is the outgoing women's league boss, launched the first salvo when she chanted a slogan about women who "burn their husbands in homes" before Mujuru rose to sing that "amongst us here are sell-outs".
Welcoming delegates to the conference, Muchinguri said "Pamberi neZanu PF, pamberi newomen's league, pasi nemadzimai ano pisira varume mudzimba! (Forward with Zanu PF, forward with the Women's League, fie upon women who burn husbands in their homes)."
Whether Muchinguri was making an innocent slogan is open to speculation but it was not lost on those in the convention that she also spoke on the anniversary of the death of Mujuru's husband in 2011.
Solomon Mujuru, decorated war hero and first commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces following independence in 1980, was burnt beyond recognition when a mystery fire razed his Beatrice farmhouse on August 15 in 2011.
Police were unable to establish what caused the inferno at the Zanu PF power broker's Ruzambo Farm, neither could a subsequent inquest although conspiracies abound.
Last night a senior Zanu PF official said if Muchinguri has some privy information about Rex Nhongo's death, she should start telling the nation of what happened to Tongogara.
Veteran nationalist and Zanla leader Josiah Magama Tongogara, died in 1979 in a horrific car crash in Maputo, Mozambique.
Muchinguri, has been repeatedly linked with Tongogara's death. She allegedly dated him during the bush war for independence from white minority rule.
She has on several occasions denied that Tongogara was assassinated. Many Zanu PF former freedom fighters claim Muchinguri was Mugabe’s sweetheart.
Meawhile, when Mujuru rose to welcome the delegates, she broke into a song "league hoye, pakati penyu apa paita uchatipandukira (amongst us here, someone will betray us)" a statement thought to have been directed at Muchinguri.
The slogans, according to Zanu PF officials who spoke on condition of anonymity, show how relations between the pair have deteriorated in recent days.
There is little love lost between Mujuru and Muchinguri – two of the top women in Zanu PF with impeccable war records.
The ruling party is embroiled in factional fights with Mujuru leading a camp positioning itself to take over from President Robert Mugabe while Muchinguri is a vital cog in a rival group headed by Justice Minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mujuru's allies have threatened to charge Muchunguri for bringing the party into disrepute after she accused them of kidnapping and sequestering members ahead of the youth and women's congresses.
The vice president's camp was also not overly impressed when Muchinguri offered to step aside to allow Mugabe's wife, Grace, to take over as head of the influential league.
The position would give Grace a seat in Zanu PF's politburo, and Mujuru's camp see the move as an attempt by rivals to undermine their leader's authority in the party's supreme decision-making body outside of congress.