THE long-drawn out Zanu PF succession dogfight is now being played out at the party's provincial levels as the two main factions led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa intensify their struggle to succeed President Robert Mugabe.
The factions battling for control of Zanu PF are now thrashing it out in the provinces as they seek to strategically position themselves in preparation for an assault on the presidency, ahead of crucial elections this year.
Fights have started in Manicaland, Masvingo, Mashonaland West and the Matabeleland provinces, with the Mujuru faction currently on the offensive in an attempt to wrestle power from the Mnangagwa faction, believed to be in control of at least six provincial executive councils.
Controlling provinces has become crucial given the Global Political Agreement (GPA) principals' decision to shelve the running-mates clause for 10 years, and their proposal for the sitting president's party to choose a successor.
The running-mates clause was seen as favouring Mujuru who is Mugabe's deputy.
By virtue of her position Mujuru was almost assured of being Mugabe's first running mate in the election and therefore an automatic successor if the clause had been adopted.
In contrast, Mnangagwa is the Zanu PF secretary for legal affairs, the eleventh most powerful position in the party.
According to the Zanu PF constitution, the presidium, comprising the president, the two vice presidents and national chairperson, shall be nominated by at least six provincial coordinating committees constituting the provincial executive council, provincial women's league and youth league committees and legislators, central committee and national consultative assembly members in the province.
With the death of Vice President John Nkomo, campaigning has already started for the vice-presidency and chairmanship positions, depending on Simon Khaya Moyo's elevation to the second top post.
Zanu PF insiders said the opening up of the race would intensify the factional fights which have been going on in the provinces for years.
In Manicaland, for example, the party is torn on how to deal with fraud allegations implicating provincial chairman Mike Madiro and four provincial youths, involving about US$750 000 sourced from diamond mining companies operating in Chiadzwa.
Party sources say the Madiro saga gives the Mujuru faction an opportunity to replace the provincial chairperson with one of their own.
Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa, a Mujuru ally who has been trying to remove Madiro from power is said to have pounced on the issue to deal with the provincial chairperson, but the Mnangagwa camp came out fighting in Madiro's corner and argued that he should go through the proper disciplinary procedures.
Zanu PF Women's League boss Oppah Muchinguri, a Mnangagwa ally, fought hard for the matter to go through disciplinary hearings believing Madiro could have been set up. Diamond mining companies have denied giving Madiro money while his supporters allege he was being set up as part of the factional fights.
"Mutasa has wasted no time in moving around with Nyabadza, introducing him as the next chairperson in the wake of the Madiro saga," said a Manicaland provincial member. "He did this a fortnight ago at a party meeting in Bocha."
Nyabadza described the reports linking him to the chairpersonship as mischievous, adding that he has no desire to fill the position because he was "already a very busy man".
"I have never spoken to anybody or held any meeting over the position because I am a very busy man with a full plate," said Nyabadza. "I am the chairman of Arda (Agricultural Rural Development Authority), I'm also chairman of the Save Valley Conservancy, so why would I want to campaign for a position which is not vacant in any case," asked Nyabadza, adding that he would only do so if called upon by the Zanu PF presidium.
In Mashonaland West, daggers have also been drawn against provincial chairman John Mafa. Word is that Mafa should be removed because he is a Karanga. Key provincial executive council positions in the province have in the past few years been held by people aligned to the Mnangagwa faction.
In Masvingo there is also an attempt to remove secretary for administration Edmund Mhere and provincial chairperson Lovemore Matuke following clashes during the party's provincial congress held at Masvingo Polytechnic College in November last year.
Riot police set dogs on delegates to deffuse the clashes which occurred after some delegates were denied entry into the venue.
In the Midlands, the Mnangagwa camp is planning to oust Flora Bhuka from her Gokwe-Nembudziya constituency after she jumped ship and joined the Mujuru camp. Sources in Midlands said the camp will sponsor a youthful candidate to fight off Bhuka in primary elections.
In Matabeleland, Mines minister Obert Mpofu has been on the campaign trail but his moves are viewed with suspicion by some party bigwigs, among them national chairman khaya Moyo, who believes Mpofu is not only seeking to control the region but is seeking to use his influence as leverage to land the vice-presidency.
Mpofu is said to be working with Mnangagwa.