A dogfight has ensued in ZANU-PF over the influential position of national chairperson as insiders predicted that incumbent, Simon Khaya-Moyo, was already on an unstoppable trajectory to become the party's vice president, and consequently the country's Vice President, following the death of John Nkomo last week.
Moyo's ascension means that his current position will become vacant.
Nkomo died on Thursday morning after a long battle with cancer to become the country's fourth Vice President to die in office in less than 15 years.
His demise has therefore opened a vacancy within the presidium, which insiders claim has sparked internecine fights within the faction-riddled party ahead of crucial national elections likely to be held in June.
It has emerged that Moyo's PF ZAPU background, as well as the fact that he is currently number four in terms of the party's administrative organogram, qualifies him to land the country's second most powerful post.
A pact between PF ZAPU and ZANU-PF in 1987, which resulted in a Unity Accord that culminated in the merger of the two parties, stipulates that one of the two vice presidents must be a former PF ZAPU cadre.
The other slot is already occupied by Vice President Joice Mujuru.
History and precedence is also in Khaya-Moyo's favour as those who have become successors to the PF ZAPU's vice presidential slot had previously been national chairmen.
The late Joseph Msika was the party's chairman before his elevation following the death of Father Zimbabwe, Joshua Nkomo, in 1999, with the just departed Nkomo's national chairmanship position also acting as a springboard to that position when Msika passed away in 2009.
Moyo's imminent elevation has created an opening in the national chairman's position, resulting in a crowded race to replace him.
But the race to replace Moyo is likely to worry President Robert Mugabe who is anxious to unite his charges ahead of make-or-break elections. Jostling for the position is likely to widen divisions and distract members from a formidable campaign against the Movement for Democratic Change party led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
The party blames deep-seated divisions for its 2008 electoral defeat when some disenchanted members de-campaigned their leader.
In 2009, fissures widened in ZANU-PF following Msika's death, with the Manicaland provincial chairman, Basil Nyabadza, resigning after Didymus Mutasa, the provincial godfather, failed in his bid to land the position of vice president.
Mutasa, the party's secretary for administration, is seen still having ambitions to be elevated from his current position.
The party's Mashonaland East province also wants to push Minister of State Security, Sydney Sekeramayi, on grounds that this might be the province's time as it has never had one of its own within the presidium.
But the jostling for the chairman's position is seen more pronounced within the former ZAPU ranks, with members stampeding in a bid to get to the front.
Those seen having ambitions to land the chairman's position include Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi, Mines and Mining Development Minister Obert Mpofu, former information minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, Deputy President of the Senate Naison Ndlovu and retired bridagier general Ambrose Mutinhiri, ZAPU's former chief of staff in its armed wing, Zipra.
The name of Matabeleland South governor Angeline Masuku has also been mentioned by gender activists within the party. But insiders claim it might be awkward for party veterans to allow two females in the presidium. There exists an unwritten rule in ZANU-PF reserving the chairmanship post to a former PF ZAPU cadre. This unwritten rule has been challenged before, starting in 2009 when non PF ZAPU cadres expressed interest in the position following the death of Msika. It still remains to be seen if ZANU-PF would depart from this tradition this time around.
Mutasa declined to state when the party would decide on the vacant positions in the party.
"Am I the person who appoints people in the party? It is the President (Mugabe) who appoints. Ask the President," said Mutasa.
However, Sikhanyiso and Naison Ndlovu's chances are insignificant given that they are viewed as electoral liabilities in ZANU-PF as they have lost successive elections to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in their provinces.
Some within the party claim the real fight for the chairmanship may be between Mohadi and Mpofu. Mohadi has consistently delivered the Beitbridge seat to ZANU-PF, with his wife Tambudzani, being the party's senator for the area. A former Zipra military intelligence supremo, Mohadi is a man of a few words, but his contributions are said to be respected within the party's politburo.
On the other hand, the wealthy Mpofu is seen as still having the energy to rejuvenate the party. Mpofu is one of only three ZANU-PF legislators, the others being Jonathan Moyo and Sithembiso Nyoni, both politburo members, who won seats in Matabeleland North.
Mpofu is currently leading a campaign for the party to reclaim lost ground in the Matabeleland provinces. His major undoing is however, that he left PF ZAPU before the Unity Accord was inked in 1987, making him a rank outsider.
Mutinhiri qualifies for both the vice presidency and national chairmanship due to his contributions in ZAPU during the liberation struggle, but has been sidelined due to tribal issues.
Apparently, the Unity Accord has been turned into a tribal pact, not an agreement between two political parties.
Mutinhiri is among the first group of six ex combatants to be trained in Russia way back in 1964 and went on to train other leading figures such as the late general Solomon Mujuru.
The ex ZAPU cadre has often been left in the cold when it comes to issues of succession, both before and after independence in 1980.
In a recent interview with the state media, Mutinhiri confirmed being sidelined at independence in 1980.
"Yeah, that's where some of the things I even don't want to remember today happened. First, when it was time to come back home, I was left in the cold. (Dumiso) Dabengwa became the head of the team that came although he is not a military man. He was appointed to head the team and my friend, Lookout Masuku, was to be under Dabengwa and then some of the people we were with were not part of the high command. Let me not talk about others, let me talk about myself, I was left in the cold," said Mutinhiri.
"I personally approached Dabengwa and asked him why am I not in the high command . . . I was left out and that's when I approached Dabengwa to find out what the situation was and all he could tell me was ahh, well sorry, we are full. There is no place."
There are suggestions that President Mugabe might call an extraordinary party congress to fill the vacant position before polls or defer the highly divisive issue until after the polls.