President Robert Mugabe and Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa's decades old relationship is being tested to the limit.
Mugabe has used two Zanu PF youth rallies in Chinhoyi and Gweru to take a dig on his protégé for allegedly using tribalism to gain popularity and power.
The attacks took a shocking dimension on August 28 when Mugabe claimed Mnangagwa forced late vice-president Simon Muzenda to relocate from Midlands to Masvingo.
The 93-year-old ruler was speaking at the joint burial of Muzenda's wife Maud and George Rutanhire.
Observers said Mugabe sought to portray Mnangagwa as a tribal politician who was not fit to take over from him as president.
Mnangagwa has until recently been regarded as a front-runner to succeed Mugabe.
One of his strengths was that he has enjoyed a close relationship with Mugabe for over 50 years.
However, the tide turned against him after the G40 faction loyal to first lady Grace Mugabe threw Defence minister Sydney Sekeremayi's name into the mix.
Zanu PF's ex-Masvingo provincial chairman in the 90s, Dzikamai Mavhaire said while Mugabe's version of the Mnangagwa and Muzenda rift could be true, it revealed that the president was a schemer.
"It is inconceivable that a whole VP is harassed by a junior minister," he said.
"Mnangagwa was just a junior minister at the time and he forced a VP to abandon his political seat while the president watched and did nothing about it.
"If this is what happened, then it was the beginning of Mugabe's mismanagement of not only Zanu PF politics, but of the country."
He said the alleged rift between Muzenda and Mnangagwa might have played into Mugabe's hands.
"Maybe such kind of incidences helped Mugabe's cause at the time, but Muzenda was a national leader who Mugabe now wants us to believe was harassed by his juniors," Mavhaire said.
"It's dementia and that old man must not be allowed to toy with people's emotions.
"We have all allowed Mugabe to get away with murder. He has always raised issues when they suit him.
"If he wants to deal with Mnangagwa, who I know has served him so well for the better part of 50 years, he should do so without soiling the man's image. It's not nice."
Mavhaire, famous for calling on Mugabe to resign when it was still taboo in the ruling party to say so, was fired from Zanu PF in 2014 for allegedly plotting against the veteran ruler.
He is now chairperson of the National People's Party led by Joice Mujuru.
Mavhaire said he was not aware that Mnangagwa and Muzenda did not see eye-to-eye.
"Muzenda was Karanga, which is the same as Mnangagwa, so there cannot be a question of ethnic disagreements," he said.
"Mnangagwa began his politics in Masvingo, but after independence he had to go back to the Midlands.
"Muzenda just came home and that is what he told us."
However, Rugare Gumbo another former Zanu PF stalwart, fired alongside Mavhaire, said it was true that Mnangagwa hounded Muzenda out of the Midlands.
"Mnangagwa wanted to be the provincial godfather and anyone who dared cross his path faced the consequences. It is difficult to explain the circumstances,"he said.
Former Intelligence minister Didymus Mutasa said Mnangagwa worked with another ex-Cabinet minister, Richard Hove to get rid of Muzenda from Midlands.
"Mnangagwa worked with Hove," he said. "They wanted the leadership of the province and Muzenda was a hindrance."
Academic Ibbo Mandaza said the story about Muzenda could be an indication that Mugabe was preparing to deal decisively with Mnangagwa.
"It could just be the rumbling of an old man on one hand, but on the other, it might be an indication he is ready to deal decisively with Mnangagwa," he said.
"The gloves might be off now. Mugabe was responding to the obvious existence of an alliance between the Midlands and Masvingo in the internal Zanu PF power struggle."
Mnangagwa's opponents in Zanu PF accuse him of plotting against Mugabe and capturing state institutions to help pave his way to State House.
The Justice minister denies harbouring any presidential ambitions.