THE long-running battle between Zanu PF national chairman Simon Khaya Moyo and Mines minister Obert Mpofu has turned nasty in Matabeleland after Moyo pushed for reshuffling of the Bulawayo provincial executive.
Moyo ensured the removal of Killian Sibanda, who is seen as a close ally of Mpofu, as Bulawayo provincial chairperson and influenced the appointment of his associate, former cabinet minister, Callistus Ndlovu, as the new chairperson.
Sibanda was demoted to deputy chairperson. Moyo and Ndlovu both hail from Mangwe district in Matabeleland South province from where the Zanu PF chairman is building his power base to land the party's vice presidency.
Moyo and Mpofu have emerged as frontrunners to succeed the late Vice-President John Nkomo who succumbed to cancer in January. The successor would need an endorsement from the majority of the party's 10 provinces.Although the battle for the vice-presidency is intensifying, it is the scramble for Zanu PF chairmanship that has triggered widespread infighting in the party.
If Moyo becomes vice-president the position of chairman becomes free for all.
Moyo and Mpofu have been embroiled in a turf war for more than two years when Nkomo's health started deteriorating. Their fights culminated in suspensions and counter-expulsions of the party's Matabeleland North and Bulawayo leadership.
Zanu PF sources said Moyo was using his influence as national chairman to ensure his close allies were in control of provinces.
Some top Zanu PF officials have accused Moyo of misrepresenting findings on problems rocking Bulawayo to justify Sibanda's removal.
Moyo led a delegation comprising secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa and national commissar Webster Shamu on March 27 to investigate problems bedeviling Zanu PF in Bulawayo.
Sources said Moyo was challenged by Matabeleland heavyweight Eunice Sandi-Moyo at last week's politburo meeting over recommendations to demote Sibanda who was elected late last year.
Sandi-Moyo, sources said, expressed disappointment over Khaya Moyo's abuse of his influence to appoint his ally Ndlovu, who is largely unpopular in Matabeleland following a statement he made in Madlambuzi in Bulilima, Matabeleland South on June 20 1984 describing Zapu as a "dead donkey".
Ndlovu crossed the floor from PF Zapu to Zanu PF in the early 80s and Mugabe rewarded him by appointing him Mines minister after the 1985 elections.
"The people who elected Sibanda in December are not happy over the sudden imposition of Ndlovu as the provincial chairperson," said a Zanu PF source. "This is seen as circumventing as leaders impose their allies willy-nilly under the guise of strengthening the party."
War veterans are also unhappy with the move and are in the process of petitioning Khaya Moyo.
However, Khaya Moyo on Tuesday defended the appointment of Ndlovu and other additional provincial executives.