Harare — Vice-President Simon Muzenda, the powerful godfather of the Hungwe faction in the volatile Masvingo province, has defected to the Eddison Zvobgo camp, reports from the province say.
Muzenda has crossed the floor, observers say, as a gesture of reconciliation meant to end the eight-year-old factional fight in Zimbabwe's only province that is not a presidential fiefdom.
Muzenda, who is widely believed to have marked March next year as his political departure point, is keen to work together with the formidable Masvingo provincial party supremo, Zvobgo.
Muzenda is understood to have personally offered the olive leaf at a meeting with Zvobgo prior to the Women's League elections in August.
Party sources told the Zimbabwe Independent that Muzenda, who is the most senior member in the province, was actively considering retirement.
"Muzenda possibly felt that he could not retire from active politics with the entire province haunted by the factionalism ghost," a source close to the developments said.
"He had to exorcise it somehow. It would not have worked in retirement, nobody was going to take him seriously," he said.
It was learnt this week that Muzenda's wife, Maud, was on October 9 invited by the Zvobgo faction as the guest speaker in Masvingo at Ward 1 Councillor Monica Chigudu's victory celebration party.
Zanu PF national youth chairman, Josiah Tungami-rai, MP for Chivi South Peter Mandebvu, Zvobgo, and Masvingo Central MP Dzikamai Mavhaire attended the party.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture Olivia Muchena, who is the Women's League deputy secretary for commissariat and culture, was the guest of honour.
Party sources told the Independent that Maud Muzenda made a moving speech that appealed for reconciliation in the province.
"It was a touching speech. She appealed to all politicians to end factionalism and confessed that Shuvai Mahofa of the Hungwe faction had been misleading them for a long time," the source said.
"Everybody that was there was touched as she narrated how the two factions had wasted all the past years fighting endless factional wars," the source added.
Muchena, in an interview with the Independent, confirmed attending the meeting and said she was very encouraged by its outcome. "(Maud) lamented how for the past years they have been involved in unnecessary factional fights," Muchena said.
"She said what they needed now was progress and expressed their willingness to work together with other people whom they had had misunderstandings with," she added.
"It was significant," Muchena said, "that Mandebvu, in his vote of thanks, said the grouping was to inform President Robert Mugabe of their willingness to work together with Muzenda."
Contacted for comment Zvobgo referred the Independent to Muzenda.
"I can't comment on that. Just go and talk to him," Zvobgo said adding that "Muzenda is a very wise man. I have worked with him very well and I never had any problems."
Sources said cracks in the Hungwe faction emerged at the recent Women's League conference where members of the Muzenda group stood against each other.
Sources said there was a "Vushiri clique" running the faction whose sole survival rested with the presi- dent. The clique consists of Mahofa, Minister of State in the vice-president's office Tsungirirai Hungwe, and her close relative Josaya Hungwe who is governor and resident minister of Masvingo.
Tsungirirai Hungwe stood against Tsitsi Muzenda, the vice- president's daughter in the Women's League elections for the secretary for administration post. Tsitsi won.
Muzenda, supported by the Midlands party supremo, Emmerson Mnan- gagwa, gave his daughter his blessing to stand against Mugabe's favourite - and previously his own - Tsungirirai.
Josaya Hungwe rallied behind his sister against Muzenda's wishes. Mahofa is also related to Josaya and is Muzenda's aunt. She has however remained steadfast in her loyalty to her "Vushiri clique". The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stanilaus Mudenge, remains one of the faction's senior members.
There is still mystery surrounding why Muzenda should allow his daughter to stand against his own formerly stalwart supporters such as Tsungirirai.