AS the Zanu PF succession battle continues smouldering, Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa's attempt to strengthen his presidential bid has suffered a huge knock after Vice-President Joice Mujuru and hardliners in the party aligned to the powerful Joint Operations Command (JOC) influenced President Robert Mugabe to disband District Co-ordinating Committees (DCCs).
Investigations by the Zimbabwe Independent reveal several cliques in Zanu PF and big hitters in JOC, which brings together army, police and intelligence chiefs, aligned to Mujuru's faction, lobbied Mugabe to abolish DCCs after it became apparent the Mnangagwa faction had gained control of most provinces.
Some JOC hardliners and senior party officials also wanted the DCCs to be disbanded for their own self-interest. Those in JOC not supporting Mujuru wanted the structures dissolved to reinforce the security forces' grip on Zanu PF as the DCCs were making that difficult, while some individuals, like Matabeleland North provincial governor Thokozile Mathuthu -- who actually made the proposal to abolish the DCCs -- did it for self-preservation.
Mathuthu was battling fellow politburo member, Obert Mpofu, who wanted to push her out of the provincial structures using his allies who controlled the DCCs in the province.
"There are many reasons why the DCCs were disbanded," a source said.
"People had a convergence or confluence of interests on the issue. What actually happened was that after the secretary for the commissariat (Webster Shamu) had presented his report on DCCs, saying the problem had been sorted out, Mathuthu took the stage and condemned the structures before suggesting they must be dissolved. She got a round of applause and from there it was one way -- the resolution to disband the structures followed."
While the Mujuru faction had done its own lobbying, there were individuals and forces fighting for DCCs to be dissolved for different reasons than stemming Mnangagwa's ascendancy. In fact, some Zanu PF heavyweight had been pushing for their dissolution months ago, mainly in May when an internal proposal was made.
However, Mathuthu, who moved the motion, and Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, who seconded it, are both Mujuru allies.
Party insiders said the plan to have the DCC elections nullified and the structures abolished was well-orchestrated and by the time the issue was discussed in the politburo meeting, Mugabe was already on board.
Mugabe told the Central Committee last Friday: "As we discussed the matter, we decided that the Central Committee should look at the issue of the DCCs and we came to the conclusion that they are serving a divisive process. They are an organ which must go.
"The politburo came to the conclusion that DCCs must be repealed. A recommendation would be made to the Central Committee so that it could remove the organ called the DCC from the party," he said adding that "we are worried the DCC has become a weapon used to divide the party".
The Mujuru faction took advantage of the fact that Mnangagwa was not at the politburo meeting as he was in China, while Mujuru herself was around although she later left the meeting when Shamu was presenting his report on the state of the party and contentious DCC elections. Mnangagwa was also not there during the recent extraordinary politburo meeting where Mujuru lashed out at his faction.
A senior politburo member said: "The whole thing was well-planned. The idea to have DCC elections nullified and disband the structures originated from the Mujuru faction after they realised they had lost in most provinces, including in Amai Mujuru's backyard, Mashonaland Central."
"It is interesting that the matter was discussed when Mnangagwa was not in the meeting and obviously there was no one from his camp who could speak out against disbanding DCCs."
Influential top army commanders and police chiefs campaigning for Zanu PF in Manicaland Province, who are said to be sympathetic to Mujuru, had reportedly submitted a dossier to Mugabe recommending that DCCs be disbanded.
The dossier was said to have been authored by a team led by deputy police commissioner-general Godwin Matanga which included Major-General Martin Chedondo, Air Vice-Marshal Shebba Brighton Shumbayaonda, Brigadier-General Herbert Chingono, Brigadier-General Mike Sango, 3 Brigade commander Brigadier-General Eliah Bandama and members of the provincial Joint Operations Command (JOC).
A top Zanu PF official in Manicaland said: "Deputy commissioner-general Matanga submitted a huge dossier to the president on DCCs in Manicaland. They spoke very strongly about the need to disband DCCs from party structures, arguing that some party bigwigs were manipulating the DCCs to gain control of the grassroot structures."
The commissariat department, headed by retired Air Vice-Marshal Henry Muchena and former Central Intelligence Organisation director-internal, Sydney Nyanhongo, accused of running an elaborate smear campaign against Mnangagwa, also pushed for the nullification of the DCCs.
The disbandment of DCCs came amid intense infighting in the districts as the tussling between the two main factions fighting for control of strategic party structures to pave way for their candidate to take over from Mugabe in the next Zanu PF congress in 2014.