CHAOTIC scenes are looming ahead of Zanu PF provincial elections tomorrow as the same problems experienced during recent controversial polls in Manicaland, Midlands and Mashonaland Central still linger on.
Two rival camps reportedly led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa are engaged in a bruising fight for the control of provincial executives which would play a critical role in electing members of the presidium at the party's elective congress in December 2014, while determining President Robert Mugabe's successor.
Due to problems of old age and associated health complications, Mugabe is almost certain not to contest as the Zanu PF presidential candidate in the 2018 elections -- if he gets there that is -- as he would be 94 years old.
Although the new constitution allows him to run for a last term when he would be 94, it is unlikely that even if he were to live until then, his party wouldn't want him to rule despite his subdued ambitions to be president for life. With that in mind, the Mujuru and Mnangagwa factions are locked in a mortal power struggle to replace Mugabe.
While Zanu PF held an extraordinary politburo meeting last Saturday to douse raging succession fires, the situation on the ground, contrary to official claims that everything is fine, looks set to re-ignite the infighting as preparations for tomorrow are anything but smooth.
Allegations of vote-buying, lack of access to the voters' roll and ballot-rigging were still flying all over the place yesterday -- an indication chaos still looms over the party.
Insiders said chairpersons were using party resources to campaign while other candidates were forced to use personal resources contrary to the Zanu PF politburo resolution that the party will fund the process. Besides, Zanu PF members in Harare, Bulawayo, Matabeleland North, Mashonaland East and Masvingo provinces were reportedly failing to access the voters' roll ahead of the elections, sparking fears of rigging.
While the politburo endorsed the Midlands, Manicaland and Mashonaland Central elections, senior party officials warned tomorrow's internal polls could be marred by rigging and chaos.
After initial problems, the Mnangagwa faction wanted polls in districts in the three provinces which did not vote redone, but the Mujuru's camp blocked that.
Manicaland senator Monica Mutsvangwa - a Mnangagwa ally - withdrew in the middle of the race citing election irregularities.
"The same problems will be repeated in this weekend's elections and this time they will be worse as we are talking about seven provinces as opposed to just three at a time," a senior Zanu PF official said this week. "If we couldn't hold proper elections in one province at a time, how about in seven provinces simultaneously?"
Losing Midlands candidate Larry Mavima, aligned to the Mnangagwa camp, who was narrowly defeated by Jason Machaya, a close Mujuru ally, said: "As a committed party cadre, I consider the politburo to be composed of outstanding and wise men and women who often make the right decisions although sometimes they make the wrong ones. The failure to democratise the (election) process by allowing those who were supposed to vote to exercise their right will come back to haunt the party at some point."
However, Zanu PF insiders said the Mujuru camp, which has three chairpersons in the bag, was likely to win most of the chairpersons' posts in the seven provincial elections although the Mnangagwa faction could secure strategic positions in the executives where they would have lost as they did in the other three provinces.
Insiders say winning the provincial chairs does not mean control of the provinces is assured because the nomination and voting for presidium members will be done by 102 members of the provincial co-ordinating committees (PCCs). So even if a faction wins the chair, it might lose control of the province if it does not have enough numbers in the PCC.
In the remaining seven provinces, Mashonaland East incumbent chairperson Ray Kaukonde is being challenged by Philemon Mutongi and Samuel Maisiri, while in Harare Amos Midzi will contest against Mt Pleasant MP Jaison Passade to retain the chairmanship.
In Mugabe's home province - Mashonaland West - chairperson John Mafa will fight it out with flamboyant tycoon Phillip Chiyangwa, Hurungwe West MP Themba Mliswa, Blessed Geza and Nimrod Chiminya, while in Matabeleland South Sport minister Andrew Langa will clash with former provincial chairperson Lloyd Siyoka.
There is going to be a battle of former senior military officers in Masvingo where Retired Brigadier-General Callisto Gwanedza, Retired Major-General Mashingaidze, Retired Major Benard Mazarire, Ailes Baloyi and Chiredzi North MP Robert Mukwena will be fighting for the control of the province.
In Bulawayo, provincial chairperson Callistus Ndlovu will be pitted against his deputy Killian Sibanda and Douglas Ndlovu.
In Matabeleland North, incumbent provincial chairperson Richard Moyo, a close Transport minister Obert Mpofu ally, will battle it out with his deputy Reeds Dube.
Dube yesterday complained that he has not seen the voters' roll, saying Moyo was receiving financial and material support from the "hidden hand".
"What I have observed is that the person I am competing against seems to have a heavyweight backing him. He has two cars in each district campaigning for him yet we both know that he does not have so many vehicles," Dube said.