THE faction loyal to Vice-President Joice Mujuru has taken an early lead in the battle for control of provinces in the on-going Zanu PF provincial elections, amid reports of dirty campaigns in the party.
But a new faction calling itself "Mugabe five-year team" has since emerged to challenge Mujuru's rise as President Robert Mugabe's heir apparent, sources have said.
Officials in the party yesterday said Ambassador John Mvundura won the chairmanship in Manicaland, while Jason Machaya was retained as the Midlands party boss, dealing a blow to the faction linked to Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mvundura was by yesterday afternoon leading with 18 230 votes compared to 7 100 votes, so far garnered by Senator Monica Mutsvangwa.
Results were still pending in Nyanga and Makoni where Mnangagwa, the presiding officer in Manicaland, had ordered a rerun following allegations of massive rigging and vote buying.
Joyline Chipo Porusingazi, wife of Chipinge South legislator Enock Porusingazi, won the provincial chairlady position.
In Midlands, Machaya won by a slight margin after garnering 13 880 votes compared to Zvishavane-Runde MP, Larry Mavima's 13 200. Mavima is said to be challenging his defeat alleging vote rigging.
"Midlands and Manicaland have set the pace for our faction. All the other provinces, including Masvingo are going to follow suit and the Mujuru faction resurgence and dominance will be unquestionable," boasted a Mujuru loyalist yesterday.
He said Mvundura's win has re-asserted national secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa's position as "godfather" in Manicaland.
This comes a few months after an attempted rebellion against Mutasa by petitioners allegedly led by Finance minister, Patrick Chinamasa and Women's league boss, Oppah Muchinguri who are both said to be aligned to the Mnangagwa faction.
But another Zanu PF official said the Mujuru faction was winning the on-going elections because it controlled the party structures and had the majority of members in the politburo and the Presidium.
"Mujuru's word is prevailing even in the politburo because most members belong to her faction," said the official.
He said the "Mugabe five-year team" has since emerged to ensure that the 89-year-old leader completes his term of office instead of retiring in favour of Mujuru as was being pushed for by sections in the party.
Members of the new faction were said to be Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) commander, general Constantine Chiwenga and other service chief as well as cabinet ministers, among them Local Government minister, Ignatious Chombo and Mnangagwa himself.
"Mnangagwa realised that he no longer has a chance to supersede Mujuru in the battle to succeed Mugabe. He was convinced to join the team Mugabe and wait for an appropriate opportunity to put his name in the ring. The team united with the objective of protecting Mugabe's legacy," said the official.
He said the war in Zanu PF has now turned dirty amid accusations and counter accusations that there were attempts by some elements in the party to sabotage the economy and weaken Mugabe in order to force him to retire before his term of office expires.
The official said it was suspected that the recent decision by the Zambian government to demand cash upfront for maize being sold to Zimbabwe was at the instigation of some elements in the party.
Fights were also taking place over the control of diamonds, while Agriculture minister, Joseph Made was also said to be under serious attack because of the manner in which he was handling his portfolio. There were also accusations and counter accusations that some factions in the party were clandestinely wooing Western countries which imposed sanctions and were pushing for security sector reforms.
Zanu Pf does not recognise factions--Gumbo
Zanu PF spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo yesterday said the party does not know of any factions and only recognised the leadership of Mugabe, Mujuru, national chairman Simon Khaya-Moyo and Mutasa.
"If there are people in the party who do not respect and follow these top leaders, then we do not know which side they belong to," he said.
"We know that some people pretend that they are no factions. However, recognise that people have differences and there are some who when beaten in elections they start complaining."
Gumbo said elections in Midlands went on well, despite complaints by Mavima who refused to concede defeat.
"We do not want people who behave like the MDC-T and start complaining when they are beaten in elections. When votes were being counted all candidates were happy, but now he [Mavima] is now refusing to counter sign the results," he said.
Gumbo however conceded that a lot still needs to be done to improve Zanu PF's election processes and systems.
The faction to prevail in the current restructuring exercise is likely to have an edge during next year's Zanu PF elective congress, where Mugabe's successor is likely to emerge.