PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe last week read the riot act to newly-elected Zanu PF provincial chairpersons, warning them to be loyal to the party by desisting from factionalism and infighting which is destroying the organisation.
Mugabe, who was in a no-nonsense mood, met the newly-elected 10 provincial chairpersons at the party's 14th annual conference in Chinhoyi.
The meeting was held after Zanu PF secretary for legal affairs Emmerson Mnangagwa complained bitterly about the conduct of provincial elections, especially in the Midlands and Manicaland, as internal strife hit new heights with party bigwigs openly trading barbs in the media.
Mnangagwa is said to be battling arch-rival Vice-President Joice Mujuru in a desperate bid to replace the nearly 90 years old Mugabe if he is incapacitated, quits or dies.
Mnangagwa's camp won only one of the 10 provinces during the acrimonious provincial elections with nine being seized by officials aligned to Mujuru, amid wide-ranging allegations which included vote-buying, outdated voters' rolls and intimidation.
Party insiders said Mugabe reminded the provincial leaders that they were chosen by the people to represent the party and not any individual interests or factions.
"The president was clear on factionalism and how it is threatening to rip the party apart," said a source who attended the meeting. "Mugabe said the new chairpersons need to be taught gwara remusangano (party ideology) and the need to stick to the party's constitution."
This is not the first time Mugabe has fumed over factionalism in the party just hours before meeting the chairpersons, he denounced the increased jockeying by factional leaders to succeed him.
He told the party's central committee: "So, let us hear our people. They, after all, will in the end decide on who will be needed and who will not. Everyone of them matters.
"We cannot build a united party when we divide people into camps of those who belong to so and so and those who belong to the party."
Last month he flew from a working visit to the Far East and Middle East to attend a special politburo meeting in an effort to douse internal fighting and close widening rifts over disputed internal provincial elections.
The last two politburo and central committee meetings were explosive as faction leaders squared off in Mugabe's presence.
During the central committee meeting in Chinhoyi, Mnangagwa expressed deep dissatisfaction with the manner in which the polls were conducted, a sign that the elections had left the party more divided.
Documents seen by the Zimbabwe Independent reveal Mnangagwa gave a detailed report in which he drew attention to irregularities in the conduct of provincial elections in Manicaland and Midlands provinces which were won by John Mvundura and Jason Machaya respectively. Both are reportedly aligned to Mujuru.
"He (Mnangagwa) reported that the elections (in Manicaland) took five days to complete due to challenges which included missing, incomplete or incoherent registers, late dispatch of ballot papers and some unknown names appearing on some registers which did not reflect the situation on the ground," read the minutes from the meeting signed by party secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa.
Mnangagwa's comments are at variance with his public position after the Manicaland elections which he superintended and in which he appeared to reject losing candidate Monica Mutsvangwa's claims that there were irregularities.
Turning to his home province of the Midlands, Mnangagwa echoed losing candidate Larry Mavima's claims that a "notable number of districts in Shurugwi North and Chirumanzi-Zibagwe did not have an opportunity to cast their votes".
"In the case of Chirumanzi-Zibagwe, the consignment of election materials received from party headquarters was short by approximately 1 200 ballot papers. As such, a corresponding number of members were disenfranchised."
The Zanu PF politburo endorsed the results.
The minutes also note that Mutsvangwa repeated her earlier complaints that the elections were "marred by a lot of discrepancies and urged the party to observe rules and regulations governing elections".
Meanwhile, Zanu PF resolved at the annual conference that all key posts in government and state institutions should be held by party loyalists.
Resolution six aims "to revive and strengthen its cadreship development policy, including structured and compulsory ideological programmes, for nurturing a broad human resources base for deployment by the party into critical, strategic positions in both the party and government."
This is not the first time Zanu PF has pushed for deployments on a patronage basis.
Zimbabwe Democracy Institute director Pedzisai Ruhanya said the running down of parastatals was largely due to the Zanu PF politics of patronage in which top military personnel who do not have the expertise to manage the firms were rewarded for political loyalty.
"There has been a deliberate move to militarise state enterprises in order to strategically reward Zanu PF-aligned former security personnel who assist their oligarchic party to maintain its hegemonic hold on power," Ruhanya said.