Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace on Saturday launched a scathing attack on Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, accusing him of fanning factionalism within the ruling Zanu-PF party.
This was the first time that Mnangagwa came under direct attack publicly for leading a faction calling itself "Team Lacoste" that is angling to take over power from Mugabe when he eventually leaves office. Another faction made up of young Turks calling itself Generation 40 is reportedly backing First Lady Grace Mugabe to torpedo Mnangagwa's presidential ambition.
First to fire the salvo on Mnangagwa in front of thousands of party supporters who gathered at Chipadze Stadium for the 8 th Presidential Youth Interface rally was the First Lady, who challenged the deputy president to reign in his supporters whom she accused of insulting the presidency in their quest to succeed her husband.
"I know that Mnangagwa is the leader of Team Lacoste; why are you remaining quiet when your people are insulting the presidency? Some youths are being expelled from the party for indiscipline and you are being seen together at your house drinking tea and beer with them and that is not right. We get angry when we see such things," said Grace.
'I am the boss'
"If you genuinely support the president you are not supposed to interact with people who were expelled from the party. We also see you (Mnangagwa) on pictures inscribed "I am the boss" with people who were expelled from the party and this should stop," she added.
Mnangagwa torched a storm recently when he appeared in pictures on social media holding a coffee mug inscribed "I am the boss". He was in the company of controversial businessman Energy Mutodi who was recently expelled from Zanu-PF party for causing alarm and despondency when he insinuated that Mnangagwa was poisoned at a recent rally held in Gwanda.
"I also got really angry yesterday when Betty Mtero (a senior Zanu-PF member) stood up and claimed that I lead a faction called G40. It is said that I bewitched Mnangagwa and poisoned him so that he dies; if Mnangagwa dies then Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko will act as president then eventually I will take over. The explanation is quite illogical. I do not know whether Mphoko and Mnangagwa are not at the same level and besides, the president is still alive and he is here," said Grace.
"I researched and did not find any faction called G40 but Team Lacoste is there big time."
'He is clever'
Mnangagwa, who was present at the rally, did not say anything as he was not lined up to speak. Both the First Lady and Mnangagwa have publicly claimed that they were not harbouring any presidential ambitions.
Meanwhile, President Mugabe claimed that Higher Education Minister Jonathan Moyo was part of a group of people who met in Tsholotsho in the early 2000s plotting that Mnangagwa takes over from him ahead of former vice president Joice Mujuru who now leads the opposition National People's Party.
"Jonathan Moyo was there in Tsholotsho when people were planning to install Mnangagwa as president. I really do not know what happened along the way that Moyo decided to abandon the project. We now hear that he is against Mnangagwa. If you ask Mnangagwa he will tell you that he was not there. He is a qualified lawyer ; he is clever and he knows how to defend himself," said Mugabe.
Although the First Lady claimed that there was nothing called Generation 40, her husband appeared to confirm it.
'No-one is bigger than the party'
"Let me tell you how Kasukuwere and others started Generation 40. They were calling themselves Obamas because the former US President was a young leader and they believed that the young generation of people who are around 40 years age group should become the next generation of leaders so they called themselves Generation 40," said Mugabe.
Mugabe called for unity within his fragmented party ahead of next year's elections.
"No-one is bigger than the party so let us stops dividing the people; we must ensure that we all remain united as we go for elections next year. We need to go out in our numbers to vote and defeat Tsvangirai and his MDC. He is coming together with other former members of his party so that they become strong in time for elections and do not think that Tsvangirai is stupid, he is very clever," said Mugabe.
Mugabe recently told his supporters that he was not ready to pass the baton to anyone within his party ahead of the 2018 fearing that a new presidential candidate from his party would be trounced by former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change party.