ZANU-PF is in turmoil over its forthcoming primary elections, with senior party officials now battling to calm down angry members who are fuming over the conduct of the party's provincial chairpersons who stand accused of favouring their cronies.
This comes as the politburo has postponed all deliberations on petitions and letters of complaints from members alleging corruption and outright fraud by some party bigwigs during the submission of CVs to their provincial leadership.
So bad is the situation, the Daily News has been told, that national political commissar Rtd lieutenant general Engelbert Rugeje and his department have been swamped by letters of complaints agitating for the reversal of some of the lists of names which have been submitted to provincial co-ordinating committees (PCC).
Contacted for comment, Zanu-PF secretary for information and publicity, Simon Khaya Moyo, confirmed that the politburo was aware of the problems, but had parked them until all provinces had completed their processes.
"The matter indeed arose during the meeting but we decided that the best way to handle them was to let the whole process to get completed.
"The politburo will receive a report from the party's electoral commission and that is what we will then deliberate on. We cannot discuss issues before the process is complete," he said.
"We are handling all issues as the party's leadership, but I can't tell you what we are doing at the moment. I will tell you at the appropriate time," Rugeje chipped in when approached by the Daily News.
While a lot of flak had initially been directed at the provincial chairpersons of Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland West and Mashonaland East – who were all accused of bending party rules in the interest of their cronies – things got quite nasty in Masvingo where Rugeje was apparently given a torrid time by the province's bigwigs.
Rugeje was even said to have angrily stormed out of a Masvingo PCC meeting after he allegedly tried to impose two Cabinet ministers – Winston Chitando and Amon Murwira – on the provincial executive committee.
Rugeje was also accused of attempting to force the province to accept the two as the party's unopposed candidates for Gutu Central and Gutu North National Assembly constituencies, apparently doing so with the support of Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Josiah Hungwe.
Insiders also told the Daily News that Rugeje's attempts had faced strong resistance from senior party members – including Lovemore Matuke, Paul Mangwana, Clemence Makwarimba and provincial chairperson Ezra Chadzamira.
The well-placed sources said Rugeje had started the ruckus by suggesting that he had allegedly been sent by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to ask the province to co-opt Chitando and Murwira into the province's structures.
This, the sources said, backfired spectacularly after he was told "in no uncertain term that there were no vacancies for the two in the provincial executive committee since every position was occupied".
When it was clear that this plan was not going to succeed, Rugeje reportedly then asked the PCC to reserve two legislative seats for them – and that is when "all hell broke loose".
At that point, Chadzamira is said to have sprung to his feet and told him bluntly that "there was no way the province would side-line some of its members who fought fiercely against former president Robert Mugabe and the defeated Generation 40 (G40) faction".
The rebuke is said to have been met with "thunderous applause" from the rest of the PCC members, who wildly endorsed it.
It was at that point that an unimpressed Rugeje reportedly accused them of disrespecting him as the political commissar – a retort which was met with even sharper rebukes from the gathered delegates.
"It is clear that Chadzamira's speech greatly angered him (Rugeje), so much so that he started pointing fingers at Makwarimba, Chadzamira, Matuke and Mangwana – accusing them of playing factional politics.
"He also told the meeting that he was the national political commissar and that as such they ought not dare to undermine his authority," one of the sources said.
Matuke is then said to have told Rugeje that he had no authority to threaten them since he was "just an appointee who only landed a high position after the ouster of Mugabe".
"Matuke told Rugeje that he had stood with party members who fought Mugabe within Zanu-PF, adding that he would not allow him to dictate things to them when they had suffered so much while opposing Mugabe," another source said.
It was at that juncture that the former army chief is said to have stormed out of the meeting in anger – with Hungwe's subsequent attempt to calm things down being met with "contempt" from the floor.
Rugeje's walkout resulted in the meeting ending prematurely, with Murwira and Chitando unable to get the positions that they had hoped for.
Emotions are also said to have boiled over in public when Matuke and Chadzamira apparently confronted Murwira and Hungwe at a later church gathering in Bikita.
"Murwira and Hungwe arrived almost at the same time and when Matuke and Chadzamira noticed them, they approached them.
"They warned Murwira that since he had decided to defy them and stand for the primary poll, he had literally declared war on them and he should thus be prepared for a gruelling fight.
"Matuke said since he was now standing unopposed in Gutu Central, he would be setting up camp in Gutu North specifically to campaign against him and in favour of youth league secretary for information and publicity, Yeukai Simbanegavi, who is now a clear favourite to win the seat," yet another senior party member said.
"At that point, Hungwe lost his cool and started accusing Matuke of fighting to take over as the province's most senior member. Hungwe also suggested that he was of the idea that the party now wanted to have more educated people within its ranks, which is why it needed to allow Murwira and Chitando to stand.
"But Chadzamira immediately shot back accusing Murwira and Chitando of being opportunists who were absent when the political heat was on," the source added.
"Murwira, who had been quiet all along, then said he was only being drawn into the issue unwittingly as it was not his own idea. But Chadzamira weighed in again saying since he had allowed himself to be shepherded, he should now brace for war," the source said.
But Chadzamira downplayed the issues yesterday, saying the province was "working in peace".
Meanwhile, in Mashonaland West Province, former deputy minister of Higher Education Godfrey Gandawa – who is the incumbent legislator for Magunje, and aspiring candidate for Zvimba South Crispen Saidi – warned in separate letters that the party could face a repeat of 2008 when Zanu -PF lost spectacularly to the opposition after some disgruntled members sabotaged the part in what came to be known as "Bhora Musango".
"It is trite to note that this decision to disqualify me is meant to fulfil personal interests and settle personal vendettas at the expense of the party.
"The provincial leadership is disqualifying me to pave way for their cronies. I have done substantial work in the constituency and everyone is alive to this fact.
"Please note that the preferred candidates will not beat me in an election. Cde national PC, if ever I had done wrong as a disciplined cadre I was supposed to be arraigned before the disciplinary committee rather than being subjected to this kind of unfair treatment," Gandawa said in his letter.
The former deputy minister, who was previously accused of siding with the vanquished G40 faction but somehow survived the purges that followed the toppling of Robert Mugabe last November, also claimed in his letter that provincial leader Ziyambi Ziyambi – who is also the minister of Justice – had allegedly threatened to have him arrested even if he were to triumph in the pending primary elections set for May 5.
"I was arrested just after CV submission was opened during Easter holidays in a bid to stop me from submitting my CV. Now that I have submitted, they removed my CV alleging that I was plotting against the president and that I am G40.
"When I engaged the chairman personally, he even went further to threaten me with arrest again and indicated that even if I win primary elections I will be arrested on nomination day since there are senior people baying for my blood," Gandawa said.
However, Ziyambi told the Daily News that his executive had only made recommendations to be submitted to the national elections directorate headed by Rugeje.
"There was no favouritism at all. I don't do those things. My job is to just compile a list according to the rules of the party. I just look at the CVs and then refer them to the national elections directorate. All the CVs are there," Ziyambi said.