THE opposition MDC-T party has warned that Zimbabwe could "easily explode into a devastating civil war" as the rival factions in the ruling Zanu PF party threaten physical violence against each other.
President Robert Mugabe felt compelled to intervene Friday as the divisions edged near a tipping point with war veterans beaten up and teargassed as they tried to gather for an extraordinary meeting in Harare the previous day.
Mugabe, 92 on Sunday, ordered the rival G40 and Lacoste factions to "shut up!"
G40 refers to a group rallying behind the veteran leader's wife, Grace, while the Lacoste bloc backs vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa.
In a statement, the MDC-T condemned the police action against the war veterans.
"The action by the Police to suppress and illegally disperse a peaceful meeting by the liberation war heroes and heroines is a total negation of the tenets of democracy for which many of these gallant sons and daughters paid the supreme sacrifice," said MDC-T spokesman Obert Gutu.
"The need for a democratic dispensation in Zimbabwe cannot be over-emphasized and the action by the police vindicates what the MDC has always been saying regarding the indiscriminate and illegal use of force by the police; particularly against opposition political activists ever since the formation of our party in September 1999."
But in an address given at State House, Mugabe claimed he was not aware of the war veterans gathering in the capital Thursday and apologised for the police response.
The incident followed bitter exchanges between the rival factions with Grace effectively accusing Mnangagwa of plotting a coup against her husband.
War veterans leader, Chris Mutsvangwa, who represents the ex-fighters in cabinet, had also exchanged insults with higher education minister Jonathan Moyo, who is said to be the strategist and key driver for the G40 faction.
An attempt, seen as engineered by G40, was also made to remove Mutsvangwa and his executive from the helm of the war veterans association while ruling party provincial chairmen linked to Mnangagwa were purportedly suspended.
The MDC-T said it was clear that the ruling party was imploding.
"No rocket science is needed to discern that Zanu PF is imploding under the weight of endless and mindless factional fighting," said Gutu.
"Things have fallen apart and the centre can no longer hold. Zanu PF is now a political party that is in terminal decline and it is more than apparent that President Robert Mugabe is no longer in charge."
Mugabe must be forced to retire
The fight over Mugabe's succession had also meant government business is neglected at a time the country faces hunger after a severe drought while the economy struggles with a crisis that has lasted more than a decade.
"Instead of attending to matters to deal with the resuscitation of the comatose economy as well as addressing the effects and impact of the impending drought that is set to affect no less than 3 million Zimbabweans, Robert Mugabe and his faction-ridden regime are at sixes and sevens and utterly clueless on the way forward," said Gutu.
"This is abundant evidence of the fact that Robert Mugabe, at the advanced age of 92, is no longer fit for purpose. The country is on virtual auto-pilot as the feuding factions within the crumbling Zanu PF regime are engaged in mortal combat.
"It is common knowledge that peace and stability are imperatives for sustainable social reconstruction, economic recovery and general development of the nation and Mugabe, in his state of incapacitation, should not be allowed to hold the nation to ransom for a day longer."
The country could only be rescued from civil war and complete collapse with the resignation of President Mugabe, the MDC-T spokesman added.
"The urgent need for Robert Mugabe to immediately step down as Head of State is now a strategic necessity if we are to avoid a total and complete collapse of the State in Zimbabwe.
"It is imperative, therefore, for all patriotic Zimbabweans, including the war veterans, to urgently come together and exert appropriate political and constitutional pressure to ensure that President Robert Mugabe steps down from office.
"The country is now being run by a shadowy group of recycled political turncoats and later day 'revolutionaries'. This shadowy and obscure group of self-confessed political thugs and corrupt opportunists is now a serious threat to national cohesion and national security.
"President Robert Mugabe is no longer in charge of the country because this shadowy group of political gangsters has virtually usurped all State power from him.
"Mugabe is now just a lame duck President; under siege from a vicious and dangerous clique of political thugs and unpatriotic, greedy and deeply corrupt political gangsters."