Former Cabinet minister Ambrose Mutinhiri has become the first senior Zanu PF leader to quit the ruling party in protest against former president Robert Mugabe's ouster by the army amid indications the ex-ruler's loyalists are mobilising to derail President Emmerson Mnangagwa's election bid.
Mutinhiri on Friday also quit his parliamentary seat, saying he could not be part of a party that had been taken over by soldiers and described Mnangagwa's government as illegal.
The former diplomat, who was the most senior Zapu leader still in Zanu PF before his dramatic resignation, is earmarked to lead a new party composed of Mugabe loyalists, sources said yesterday.
Mugabe was toppled by the army on November 15 last year in an operation the military claimed was meant to restore the 94-year-old's legacy that was allegedly being threatened by a faction known as G40.
Mnangagwa, who had been fired by Mugabe for alleged deceit, was installed as the ruling party's leader before taking over as head of state.
Mugabe recently revealed that his former deputy wanted him to be part of Zanu PF's campaign ahead of harmonised elections between July and August.
However, Mutinhiri's scathing attack on the new government and the manoeuvres to form the new party with close links to the Zanu PF founder is expected to change the "political landscape dramatically".
In the resignation letters dated March 2 and addressed to Zanu PF secretary for administration Obert Mpofu and National Assembly speaker Jacob Mudenda, the former Zipra commander said he was now joining people who were working to restore democracy in Zimbabwe.
"I leave Zanu PF because of my principled stance that I cannot be part of an institution that harbours power usurpers bent on subjugating our people," part of the letter to Mpofu reads.
Giving up his Marondera West seat, Mutinhiri said he took the decision after thorough consideration of the events of the past four months after the "unconstitutional overthrow of Mugabe."
He said Mugabe was illegally replaced by Mnangagwa after a military coup on November 15.
"It is a matter of profound national concern to me that, subsequent to the military coup, Zanu PF as well as government and state institutions have been captured by the Zimbabwe Defence Forces [ZDF] in blatant and unprecedented violation of the Constitution of Zimbabwe," he said.
The former minister, once touted as a potential vice-president, said as a trained soldier, a former freedom fighter, a former Zipra commander during the war, a former diplomat and ex-Cabinet minister, he was alive to the values and ethos of Zimbabwe's armed liberation struggle.
"The fundamental values and tenets of both Zimbabwe's heroic liberation struggle and the constitution of Zimbabwe dictate that executive authority is derived from the people and not from the gun," reads part of the letter to Mudenda.
"In other words, the enduring principle of Zimbabwe's armed liberation struggle and constitutional democracy is that politics must always lead the gun.
"The ZDF coup of November 15 2017 violated a cherished heritage of our armed liberation struggle and of our hard-won constitutional democracy."
He accused the security forces of abusing their positions "to turn the guns they were entrusted with by the people of Zimbabwe to defend their sovereignty, into weapons to shoot their way into national politics."
Mutinhiri said the national constitution does not allow soldiers to engage in partisan politics after the commanders claimed they were intervening to avert a Zanu PF electoral loss.
He said Zanu PF was driven by the liberation struggle guiding principle in Zipra and Zanla that politics must always lead the gun and not that the armoury should give them the right to dictate who should lead Zimbabwe and its people.
"The fact that the ZDF trampled on the values and ideals of Zimbabwe's armed liberation struggle and the country's constitution is bad enough, what is worse and totally unacceptable is that Parliament, which has a duty and obligation to defend the constitution, also sought to be part of this shameless illegality," he charged.
"I have no doubt that history will judge this Parliament harshly for failing to defend the fundamental law of the land in a misguided attempt to justify a military coup.
"The turning of guns against an elected president of the Republic by the ZDF, in a constitutional democracy is, by extension, the turning of guns and military tanks on the millions who voted President Mugabe into power.
"It is, therefore, incumbent upon every patriotic, law-abiding Zimbabwean to stand up and condemn the coup and make sure that: Never again will such an affront on the constitution be allowed."
Mutinhiri was not picking up phone calls yesterday, but sources said he was likely to be unveiled as the leader of a Zanu PF splinter party known as the New Patriotic Front (NPF).
Former Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo, who was one of the major targets of the military during Mugabe's ouster, has been linked to the party.
Other influential figures in the outfit are former members of the G40 faction that was locked in a vicious war with Mnangagwa's loyalists known as Team Lacoste at the height of fights for the control of Zanu PF.
Mugabe raised eyebrows when he met former vice-president Joice Mujuru last month where he apologised to his former deputy for her removal from office in 2014.
There was speculation at the time that the two would join hands to fight Zanu PF in the polls.
The NPPF has petitioned the African Union and the Sadc to intervene in Zimbabwe, describing Mugabe's ouster as an unconstitutional power grab by the military.