PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is reportedly dangling the second vice-presidency carrot to Zapu leader Dumiso Dabengwa so that his party can return and work with Zanu PF to "consolidate the gains of independence and the spirit of unity", the Zimbabwe Independent can reveal.
Sources close to the developments claim Mugabe, who is keen to heal a deep rift with Zapu members, sent emissaries to Dabengwa to negotiate with the party.
Dabengwa left Zanu PF in 2008 to revive Zapu together with the likes of the late Thenjiwe Lesabe and Welshman Mabhena, all former PF-Zapu, although others like current national chairperson Simon Khaya Moyo and the late vice-president John Nkomo remained in Zanu PF.
History suggests Dabengwa has always had a difficult relationship with Mugabe who detained him in the 1980s along with senior Zapu colleagues Lookout Masuku and Vote Moyo (both deceased) on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the Zanu PF government. Even when he was offered a deputy home affairs ministerial post by Mugabe shortly after the Unity Accord in 1987, Dabengwa dragged his feet saying he needed to think about it, before eventually accepting.
However, reports of Mugabe's offer feed into speculation why Zanu PF has been delaying filling the post of second vice-president despite the office becoming vacant in January 2013 following the death of John Nkomo.
The second vice-president post is traditionally reserved for former PF-Zapu members in accordance with the Unity Accord between the party and Zanu PF and there is widespread belief that it will be offered to Khaya Moyo -- a former PF-Zapu member before the Unity Accord.
In an interview with this paper on Wednesday Dabengwa would neither confirm nor deny that talks are underway with Mugabe.
"We have heard about that too," said Dabengwa, before adding "but no formal approach has been made to our party".
"We have put our position to them (Zanu PF) and if the president is serious, then the ball is in their court," he said.
However, Dabengwa was not prepared to elaborate on how his party had sent a position paper to Zanu PF if they had not been approached in the first place.
"We have set clear parameters which we sent to Zanu PF and we have no problems in going back to Zanu PF if these are met."
Dabengwa also said he still enjoys a cordial relationship with Khaya Moyo and other former PF-Zapu members who remain in Zanu PF although they had political differences.
"Those who remained in Zanu PF have a different political outlook, but they remain our colleagues."
However, highly-placed sources insist talks are underway between Mugabe and Dabengwa.
"There are talks going on and Dabengwa has given Zanu PF his party's position with regards to Mugabe's plea and promise," said one of the sources.
During the Unity Accord commemorations on December 22 in Bulawayo last year, Mugabe implored former PF-Zapu cadres who left Zanu PF to return, describing their departure as an act of infidelity and dishonesty to the late vice-president Joshua Nkomo.
"That is an act of infidelity and disloyalty to Umdala Wethu. Yesterday, you were under his command. Some of us are war veterans and so, now that he is gone, do you think as he is in the grave, he can now be disobeyed," said Mugabe.
He added: "As war veterans, we fought one war, whether Zipra or Zanla (the military wings of PF-Zapu and Zanu PF respectively). So, get together and come back and be where you belong. Do not get lost."
If the vice-presidency talks with Dabengwa are anything to go by, then Zapu is headed for a collision course with those PF-Zapu members who remained in Zanu PF and have since given a greenlight to Zanu PF national chairperson Simon Khaya Moyo to become the country's second vice-president.
The former PF-Zapu members met in the Midlands province towards the end of last year and agreed that the former diplomat will ascend to the vice-presidency without going for a special congress.
Sources claimed central committee and politburo members and other senior Zanu PF officials from all over the country, who were loyal to PF-Zapu before the Unity Accord, attended the meeting. Khaya Moyo shrugged off a potential challenge from Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi and Deputy Senate President Aniston Ndlovu.
This is not the first time Mugabe has tried to bring Dabengwa back into the Zanu PF fold. Following the death of the then vice-president Joseph Msika in 2009, Mugabe offered Dabengwa the post before John Nkomo landed it.
Two emissaries were dispatched to Bulawayo to persuade the former Zipra commander into accepting the offer and in his defence of the choice of Dabengwa, Mugabe said he would like to be "flanked by fighters" in the Zanu PF presidium.
Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo professed ignorance of the talks saying he was not around last month and referred all other questions to Khaya Moyo.
"We are already united with Zapu; so there is no need for other talks.
"I was not there in December when the president went to Bulawayo; so there is nothing I can comment concerning what happened there. So talk to the national chairperson (Khaya Moyo)," Gumbo said.
Khaya Moyo was unreachable for comment.