INTERNAL fights within Zanu PF in Manicaland, which recently reached a boiling point, have severely weakened the most senior politician in the province, threatening his potential to further rise within the party, analyst have said.
For decades, Zanu PF Secretary for Administration, Didymus Mutasa has been the godfather in Manicaland and his word was unquestioned. Anyone in the province who wanted to climb the ladders of power had to get Mutasa's blessing, ever since his predecessor, Maurice Nyagumbo died in 1989.
But a recent petition written to President Robert Mugabe to rein in Mutasa has left him exposed, weakened and on the defensive.
According to the petitioners, allegedly led by women's league boss Oppah Muchinguri and Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, Mutasa has divided the party in Manicaland due to the imposition of candidates and dictatorial tendencies, allegations he has flatly denied.
The petitioners accused Mutasa of causing the suspension and subsequent arrest of provincial chairman, Mike Madiro and his deputy, Dorothy Mabika on allegations of theft of calves donated to Mugabe for his birthday celebrations. Mutasa is now a state witness in the case against the two party officials, who are linked to the faction loyal to Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.
But Mabika has used the court case to make sensational allegations that Mutasa was "fixing" her for spurning his sexual advances and her refusal to join a faction loyal to Vice-President Joice Mujuru. Mutasa denied both allegations.
Although Mutasa appeared to have registered a small victory after a probe team led by national chairman, Simon Khaya Moyo led to the dissolution of the provincial executive; analysts said the days when his power went unchallenged were over.
The new provincial leaders, Ambassador John Mvundura and his deputy former governor, retired lieutenant general Mike Nyambuya, appear to be both acceptable to the two warring factions as they are largely viewed as neutral.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Shakespear Hamauswa said, although Mutasa has been winning elections consistently against MDC opponents unlike other bigwigs, the 2013 polls outcome will determine his fate.
"If his party goes down from the six seats it won in Manicaland in the 2008 elections, then all the blame will be heaped on him," he said.
Hamauswa said a leader is normally judged by his or her capacity to resolve problems.
"Mutasa's capability is being tested, but unfortunately for him, he seems to be unaware of this scrutiny.
"It will now depend on how quick and calm he will deal with the issues as a leader," he said. "The best he can do is to do the opposite of what his alleged enemies are expecting. He was even supposed to conceal his actions without attacking anyone himself."
Mutasa recently castigated Mu-chinguri and Chinamasa accusing them of authoring the petition against him, while at the same time openly criticising Mnangagwa for harbouring presidential ambitions. Both Mujuru and Mnangagwa have persistently denied leading factions in Zanu PF or harbouring presidential ambitions.
Political analyst, Clever Bere said events in Manicaland showed that Mutasa and other top party brass no longer held the clout they once wielded.
"Indeed, the generation 40 as it was put across once by Jonathan Moyo is slowly but surely taking the reins in the party," he said.
Bere said it had never been a Zanu PF culture until recently that issues reach such a boiling point and spread to the public domain without having been effectively dealt within the party.
He said this further showed the waning levels of discipline in the party.
Bere said Mutasa has now lost grip in Zanu PF not only in Manicaland, but nationwide.
"Remember he is not a provincial leader, but national secretary for admin, which means his influence and power ordinarily, is huge. But if the leader finds himself in day-to-day conflicts and being petitioned by his juniors, he has lost it," he said.
Mutasa, he said, would emerge bruised if Zanu PF loses again in Manicaland, adding that there was need for leadership renewal in the party starting from Mugabe.
"This old guard, though it has contributed to the dominance of Zanu PF, is now a liability. If Zanu PF performs badly in Manicaland in particular, the blame will be placed on Mutasa," said Bere.
But another political analyst, Alois Masepe said the events in Manicaland were a manifestation of the problems in Zanu PF in the battle to succeed 89-year- old Mugabe.
He said although Manicaland might have taken centre stage, divisions were replicated in other provinces such as Bulawayo, Masvingo and Mashonaland West where the Mujuru and Mnangagwa factions were battling to succeed Mugabe.
"It's a fact that Mugabe will go after the elections. The two factions are going for broke and taking no prisoners. But it appears that the Mnangagwa faction is on the retreat, as the Mujuru faction seems to be reversing the gains it made over the years, by restructuring provinces aligned to it," said Masepe.
He said although problems in Manicaland had tarnished Mutasa's image, he was likely to be elevated in the event that Mujuru takes over from Mugabe.
Mutasa could not be reached for comment yesterday, but was recently quoted as saying no one should dare challenge Mujuru and insisting that he would remain the most powerful politician in Manicaland.
MUTASA IS TARNISHING ZANU PF IMAGE
Hamauswa said Mutasa as a senior leader, should have been shrewd enough to use other people to fight his personal wars rather than openly confront his perceived enemies.
"With Mutasa appearing in the court to nail his subordinates, not only exposes him but also incites anger from other party members," he said.
Hamauswa said by testifying against other senior party officials in court, Mutasa was exposing dirty games within the party and this was tarnishing Zanu PF and harming its chances against MDC in the forthcoming election.