Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa is being targeted by a Zanu PF faction working with the splinter People First movement ahead of the 2018 elections, a shadowy State-controlled media columnist has claimed.
Mnangagwa's allies have come under unprecedented attack from a Zanu PF faction known as Generation 40 (G40) as the battle to succeed President Mugabe hots up.
Nathaniel Manheru, widely believed to be Mugabe's spokesperson George Charamba, yesterday set the cat among the pigeons when he claimed the unnamed Zanu PF faction was gunning for Mnangagwa with the help of Mujuru.
The assertion that Mujuru still has influence in Zanu PF would send tongues wagging after Mugabe in December claimed People First was not a threat to the ruling party.
"In the first place it [People First] is busy fighting Mnangagwa, alongside a cabal inside Zanu PF which for all its claims to the contrary, is in fact acting at one with Mujuru group," Manheru alleged in apparent reference to G40.
G40 is believed to be against Mnangagwa's ambitions to succeed Mugabe and is coalescing around First Lady Grace Mugabe.
Manheru claimed those fighting Mnangagwa could be wasting their time as he might not be the Zanu PF candidate in the 2018 polls as Mugabe had been endorsed to run for another term.
"This is key to understanding the state we are in. But here is the absurdity of it all. The People First and anti-Mnangagwa faction in Zanu PF are setting up an opposition they like, setting up an examination they want to sit," he wrote.
"Not one they will have in 2018, they have to sit in 2018! They like to fight Mnangagwa, like to decide for Zanu PF its candidate in 2018!
"And they have done so already, immediately entering into the battle mode against a candidate they have made and designated for Zanu PF, a candidate they want Zanu PF to field, indeed a candidate they want to oppose in 2018."
Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya-Moyo said he was not aware of what Manheru was writing about.
"I am not aware of that. I don't know of its chances (of a People First and Zanu PF faction alliance)," he said. "Honestly, all I am saying is that I don't know about that."
However, People First interim spokesperson Rugare Gumbo said they were not working with any faction in Zanu PF but the yet-to-be-formed party had attracted disgruntled individuals.
"We are working with disgruntled members in Zanu PF, those who are purged and tortured but willing to bring change," Gumbo said.
"We are not working with a particular faction but people who admire us, those who want justice and peace and are committed to change.
"We are not going to work with those who want violence, intimidation, corruption and other bad things, those we will not work with."
"We don't just take anybody. We will not work with those without people's interest at heart and love exploitation and oppression."
In the run-up to the Zanu PF conference last month, G40 members unsuccessfully pushed for Mnangagwa's demotion on the pretext of restoring a slot for a woman vice-president.
Academic Ibbo Mandaza said the ruling party was now in panic mode because of worsening factionalism.
"It's just an acknowledgement that there is serious factionalism in Zanu PF which they have been denying all along," he said.
"They are in panic mode. Things have never been okay since 2014. It was naïve for them to expect things to be normal.
"That was the beginning of the end of Mugabe dispensation. Someone told me that in 1963 Joshua Nkomo fired Ndabaningi Sithole, Robert Mugabe, Moton Malianga and many others in the same manner they fired Mujuru.
"Those fired went on to form the Zanu PF that we have now. History is repeating itself."
Former Information minister Jonathan Moyo blew Charamba's cover and revealed that the civil servant had taken over the column that he had started in The Saturday Herald.
Moyo described Charamba as a useful idiot as his writings often gave an insight into Mugabe's thinking.
Mujuru was fired from government in 2014 and the following year she was kicked out of Zanu PF on allegations that she was plotting to topple Mugabe.
At least 200 senior officials including Cabinet ministers and legislators were either fired or suspended for allegedly sympathising with Mujuru.
Prior to her expulsion, Mugabe's former deputy was involved in a bitter factional war with Mnangagwa and towards her last days in the party there were indications she had gained control of Zanu PF.