The apparent plan by former leader Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace to sink President Emmerson Mnangagwa's election bid in this year's keenly-anticipated national polls is effectively dead in the water.
This comes as the political project that the Mugabes are backing for their mooted mission, the National Patriotic Front (NPF), has been hit by what insiders describe as "fatal divisions and paralysis".
At the same time, the party's ‘‘missing in action" interim president, Ambrose Mutinhiri, is also said to be considering his future — amid damaging talk that he is being abused by the former first family in the same way that they used Zanu-PF politburo member Sydney Sekeramayi at the height of the ruling party's deadly succession wars.
Mugabe's nephew, Patrick Zhuwao, a former Cabinet minister under the frail nonagenarian, further threw the cat among the pigeons on Monday when he accused former Zanu-PF national political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere of being used by Mnangagwa's government to lead a splinter group against the NPF.
Zhuwao, Kasukuwere and former Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo – who all fled into self-imposed exile following the fall of Mugabe from power in November last year – were once close political allies who were identified as the kingpins of the ruling party's Generation 40 (G40) faction which coalesced around Mugabe and Grace before the 94-year-old was stunningly deposed from the throne with the help of an intervention by the military.
Until then, the annihilated G40 was locked in a brutal war of attrition with Mnangagwa and his supporters for control of both Zanu-PF and the country.
Zhuwao's surprise attacks on Kasukuwere were prompted by unconfirmed reports that the former Local Government minister may be negotiating with Mnangagwa and his inner circle for his return to Zimbabwe.
"Reports are coming through that the military junta is incubating the establishment of a copy-cat to the National Patriotic Front, to be called the ZNPF in an effort to derail the real NPF.
"The reports indicate that this copy-cat ZNPF junta project will seek to hijack the membership of the real NPF and subsume them under the leadership of Saviour Kasukuwere.
"Kasukuwere's dogged determination to return to a Zimbabwe that is under the yoke of the military junta has also left me questioning his motives. The only way in which someone walks into a dangerously fatal situation is if they have been given assurances for their safety.
"Given the threat that the real NPF poses to the military junta, it is conceivable that such a guarantee can only have been secured by way of a commitment to derail the real NPF," the loose-tongued Zhuwao thundered.
"This ZBR (Zhuwao Brief Reloaded) is being written for the express purpose of putting on the record that I, as Patrick Zhuwao, am not part of Kasukuwere's current political shenanigans and manoeuvring.
"I do not support nor subscribe to the notion that Kasukuwere should lead the real NPF," he added — saying further that there were attempts by an NPF faction comprising Sarah Mahoka, Jeppy Jaboon and Shadreck Mashayamombe to catapult Kasukuwere to the party's helm.
"I will never support the copy-cat ZNPF junta project because its principle objective is to derail the efforts of the real NPF towards dismantling the military junta in control of Zimbabwe," Zhuwao concluded.
Kasukuwere has not publicly commented on the fall of Mugabe and his own subsequent flight into exile, which followed the raids by authorities on several G40-linked Cabinet ministers during the military led Operation Restore Legacy last November.
Indeed, virtually everything that has been written about him and also attributed to him has come through other people such as Zhuwao and Moyo, claiming to speak for him as well.
But well-placed sources close to Kasukuwere told the Daily News yesterday that everything that was being said and written about him were "pathetic attempts to sully his name and jeopardise his chances of returning to Zimbabwe" where he apparently longs to come back to, to see his ailing mother.
"It's plain silly that Zhuwao is accusing Tyson (Tyson) of supping with the devil by negotiating for his return home. Aren't Mugabe and Grace nicely ensconced here at home, and so what is wrong with Tyson wanting to come back?
"By the way, when Jonathan was sacked from Zanu-PF, he negotiated his return into the party and was accepted … so why should Kasukuwere be viewed differently if that is what he wants to do?
"We also know for certain that these characters attacking Tyson do not only fear him as a politician, but also want to draw him into their personal wars.
"The hard fact though is that he won't dignify this nonsense by these nonentities by responding to their malicious attacks … just leave him alone please," one of Kasukuwere's allies said.
Meanwhile, a peeved NPF spokesperson Jealousy Mawarire said yesterday that the party had noted media reports and statements by anonymous sources, as well as "some excitable NPF officials purporting to speak on behalf of the party on the subject of leadership change within our fast-growing party".
"It is regrettable that these patently reckless statements at public forums and clandestine interviews, done nocturnally, have been taken as official party positions when in fact the NPF has a clear operational structure that deals with leadership identification as we grow our party.
"Attempts by some cadres, identified and appointed to specific roles by the party's founders, to arrogate themselves powers to impose leaders of their choice is patently unconstitutional as these appointed officials have not been subjected to any electoral process themselves.
"If there is need for leadership reconfiguration, in line with our election strategy, that process will be led by president Mutinhiri and other founding members of the party.
"The NPF has a clear vision of restoring the country to constitutionalism. We are geared towards putting an end to the stratocracy introduced by the military coup of November 15, 2017," Mawarire said.
Commenting on NPF's plight, political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said what was happening within the party showed "how fluid our political landscape is and that our politics is less about ideology and principles, and more of how one can eat and how one can safeguard their ill-gotten wealth".
Mugabe resigned from office late last year, a few hours after Parliament had initiated proceedings to impeach him — after he had refused to leave office during eight tense days that began with the military intervening in the governance of the country.
But the 94-year-old has stunned Zimbabweans in recent months by re-entering the political arena and holding several meetings with opposition leaders and some former Zanu-PF bigwigs — including openly lending his support to the NPF.