Zanu PF has now officially split into two distinct and bitterly-opposed formations, with disaffected party stalwarts — including liberation struggle pioneers, war veterans and security sector bigwigs — coalescing under the principles of the "original Zanu PF" and now operating as Zanu People First.
Well-placed sources told the news crew yesterday that former Vice President Joice Mujuru was set to lead this "original Zanu PF" which would use the slogan "People First" to "distinguish itself clearly from mafikizolos (Zanu PF Johnny-come-latelies) and weevils (supporters of President Robert Mugabe's wife Grace and VP Emmerson Mnangagwa)"…. as ruling party splits into two distinct formations.
Retired, but hugely respected party elder, Cephas Msipa, was among the first prominent party members to warn of an imminent split of the party, going on to criticise Mugabe openly late last year for failing to deal with Zanu PF's deadly infighting and refusing to take advice on the party's escalating factionalism.
In an interview with the Daily News last October, Msipa said pointedly that he feared for the worst for Zanu PF if its ugly intra-party ructions continued to obtain. "If people continue being dissatisfied with what is happening, it is possible to have a split. I think the president has the key to all these issues. I hate factionalism and if it continues I don't know what will become of the party," he said ruefully.
Msipa also bluntly warned Mugabe that his failure to unmask and stop the party's real factionalists would result in the party splitting into several opposing camps, further attacking the party faction aligned to Mnangagwa for behaving as if it "owned" the divisive Grace — a development that he said was fuelling factionalism inside the party.
Analysts said yesterday that the country's political stage was now delicately poised between the two bitterly-opposed Zanu PF formations, as well as opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC, ahead of the crucial 2018 national elections.
"They (Grace and Zanu PF hardliners) appear to have finally got what they always seemed to want, a split — and it's now game on between Zanu PF Mugabe and Zanu PF Mujuru.
"Every one's hope will be that this does not degenerate into more abductions and violence as Zanu PF hardliners have never been known to take determined opposition well," analyst Shepherd Mntungwa said.
Investigations by the Daily News show that the disaffected Zanu PF stalwarts have been meeting regularly with many prominent Zimbabweans for some time now, to plan "the operationalisation" of Zanu People First, in a bid "to reclaim the original Zanu PF", which they allege has been hijacked by power-hungry mafikizolos.
Sources said many expelled and serving Zanu PF ministers, Members of Parliament, Youth and Women's league officials who had been victims of the party's harassment and brutal purges of the past few months, which had been fronted by Grace, supported the idea of Zanu People First and were pushing Mujuru to lead the party.
Former Presidential Affairs minister, Didymus Mutasa, who is a former top aide of Mugabe, has alluded to the formation of the party and its principles, adding that they were pinning their hopes on the popular widow of the late liberation war icon General Solomon Mujuru, Joice, to lead it.
"There is no doubt that the person that will take Zimbabwe from the current political and economic mess is Amai Mujuru. The government has failed and the Look East policy only makes a few people rich.
"Only until there is a real change of government, we are all going to suffer. The only person capable of changing this is Amai Mujuru," Mutasa said in a recent interview.
"We are members of the original and genuine Zanu PF which was formed on August 8, 1963. We constitute the nucleus that bore the brunt of the national struggle. Unlike the mafikizolos who constitute the new-look and illegal central committee and politburo of the 2014 Zanu PF.
"Our membership is composed of the original and seasoned politicians, commanders of the Zimbabwe African National Army (Zanla), Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (Zipra) and Zimbabwe People's Army (Zipa) forces who are now being marginalised," Mutasa added.
Revealing their close contact with some key members of the post-December Zanu PF, Mutasa also said they were working closely with chairpersons who were deposed in the run-up to the damp squib 2014 party congress.
Ahead of that controversial congress, Zanu PF fired nine elected provincial chairpersons who were perceived to be sympathetic to Mujuru.
"We are happy to say that the majority of the deposed chairmen of provinces were tried and tested war veterans and upright members of our party. Our hearts are with them, and they are with us," Mutasa said.
He also said "Amai Joice Teurai Ropa Mujuru is a team player and a fine compromiser. She always puts ‘People First' and the unity of the party above her personal ambitions".
"We resolutely support all the political leaders and party members allegedly aligned to Mai Mujuru who were purged before, during and after the illegal, undemocratic, unprocedural and illegitimate congress of December 2014.
"We also embrace all those who left the party in the past because their grievances had not been handled properly," Mutasa added.
Notable persons who have been chucked out from the post-congress Zanu PF include Mujuru, Mutasa, former party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo, former war veterans' leader Jabulani Sibanda and former Mashonaland West provincial chairman, Temba Mliswa.
Margaret Dongo, who left Zanu PF in the 1990s to stand as an independent candidate also appeared to warm up to the idea of a new party yesterday.
"A Zanu PF returning to the ideals of the liberation struggle is long overdue. It will attract war veterans, nationalists and all those who were wrongly expelled from the party. The generation that waged the liberation war is still there and should lead the party not these mafikizolos.
"Fortunately, these guys have seen the light and there are a lot of war veterans who have been looking for shelter," Dongo said.
And despite the public bravado after expelling Mujuru and her allies, it is widely known that the People First movement has rattled the ruling party, amid fears that party hardliners may resort to extreme violence to thwart their opponents.
But Mutasa and team are not deterred.
"We should all converge to save our country from the corrupt and selfish leadership of the illegal 2014 Zanu PF. We will accept as members all Zimbabweans from all walks of life who are determined to work for a new Zimbabwe.
"We envisage a Zimbabwe where every member of society matters. Hence we shall require that in all considerations people must come first. Hence our slogan People First," he said.
Gumbo said yesterday that the expulsion of Mujuru from the post-congress Zanu PF was a blessing in disguise as it would open the door for "like-minded persons" to work together towards a common objective.
"The expulsion of Mai Mujuru just shows vindictiveness on the part of those who are in the party's politburo, but they have also played into our hands," he said cryptically.