JOSTLING to contest in Zanu PF's primary elections has reached fever pitch with the politburo set to finalise the selection criteria for candidates to stand on the party's ticket in the make-or-break elections expected later this year.
The Zanu PF commissariat department has directed provinces to restructure cells and any other structures that play a role in the party's primaries.
Primary elections guidelines were drawn up last year by the Zanu PF mobilisation committee chaired by secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa.
A major criterion is that only card-carrying members who have served the party for five years or more consecutively would be eligible to participate. The five-year rule has created a storm as it is suspiciously viewed as a ploy to bar young politicians from contesting against the party's ageing bigwigs.
Senior army officers, diplomats and Tsholotsho North MP Jonathan Moyo and maverick businessman Philip Chiyangwa have been exempted from the five-year rule. Chiyangwa and Moyo were once expelled from Zanu PF but have been exempted because the party believes they have the capacity to win crucial seats for it.
The provincial chairpersons who were involved in the 2004 Tsholotsho debacle would not be affected by the five-year rule because they were only suspended from the party. This leaves former Manicaland and Midlands chairpersons Mike Madiro and July Moyo free to contest.
However, their former Masvingo counterpart Daniel Shumba is barred from contesting because he was expelled after forming his own party following his suspension.
With primary elections expected between February and March, political temperatures have been soaring in various constituencies as aspiring candidates fiercely jostle to represent the party in the parliamentary elections.
Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo told the Zimbabwe Independent a raft of primary elections guidelines would be scrutinised by the politburo's first meeting expected end of this month.
"We are restructuring in preparation for the primary elections expected between February and March but the date can only be set after the finalisation of primary polls guidelines," said Gumbo.
"A politburo committee has finished everything around the criteria to choose election candidates, (and) the politburo will hopefully meet by end of January to chart the way forward for primary elections."
Gumbo said primary election guidelines would be made public early next month after the politburo meeting.
Politburo members, sources said, were tasked with ensuring structures were intact by the end of January to pave way for the primaries.
"We were told to make sure we have cell structures with 50 members each, and to co-opt members into any other vacant posts in districts and provinces," said a politburo official.
But party bigwigs are already endorsing themselves in some constituencies ahead of the primaries and blatant vote-buying is also escalating as the country tilts towards the critical plebiscite.
Zanu PF national chairman Simon Khaya Moyo has managed to muscle politburo member Eunice Sandi-Moyo out of the race for the Bulilima senatorial seat.
Khaya Moyo has publicly declared his interest in becoming a senator and chiefs in the area have already endorsed him as their preferred candidate.
He has been donating maize meal with packaging emblazoned with his name and image as he strives to ensure he wins the seat to remain politically relevant in local politics after 10 years of serving as a diplomat in South Africa.
Mines minister Obert Mpofu is plotting to wrestle the Bubi-Umguza senatorial seat from Lot Mbambo for his wife Sikhanyisiwe, while his brother Bekithemba Mpofu is vigorously campaigning for the Hwange West House of Assembly constituency.
Mbambo has vowed to campaign to keep his seat despite a spirited effort by Mpofu to create a political office for his wife, currently the Umguza Rural District Council chairperson.
Public Service deputy minister Andrew Langa is battling to protect his Insiza North seat from Patrick Hove's challenge.
Politburo member Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, who has lost the previous three parliamentary polls from 2000, is campaigning in Mpopoma where he has been regularly donating an assortment of goodies since the beginning of 2012.
Home Affairs co-minister Kembo Mohadi and his wife Tambudzani are also campaigning to keep their Beitbridge seats. Kembo is the Beitbridge MP while Tambudzani holds the senate seat.
Tourism minister Walter Mzembi is likely to battle it out with retired Colonel Philip Toperesu for the Masvingo South constituency, while Copac co-chairman Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana is set to fight it out with Ephraim Gwanongodza for Chivi Central in the party's primaries.
Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo would be challenged by businessman Edwin Matibiri in Zvimba North.
Elsewhere President Mugabe's nephew Patrick Zhuwawo is facing a stiff challenge from Central Intelligence Organisation operative Francis Mukwangwariwa in Zvimba East.
Affirmative Action Group's Chamu Chiwanza is eyeing the Mabvuku constituency, which is also being targeted by Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation chairman Godwills Masimirembwa.