President of the Chiefs Council, Fortune Charumbira yesterday revealed that former defence forces chief, General Constantino Chiwenga (retired) consulted chiefs in plans to topple former president Robert Mugabe.
"We always met [vice-president Constantino] Chiwenga when he was CDF [commander defence forces] and discussed these issues [Operation Restore Legacy]," he said.
"It's only that people did not know but he [Chiwenga] was one of us. We knew long back that ED [Mnangagwa] would be Zim 1[president] and Chiwenga Zim 2 [vice president]. As for Kembo Mohadi, we had already started supporting him in Masvingo."
Traditional chiefs yesterday said they were working with Zanu PF and would support the party in this year's general elections, contrary to provisions of the Constitution which stipulate that they should be apolitical.
Charumbira said in the new political dispensation which ushered in Mnangagwa, traditional leaders should not be left out in the political matrix of Zanu PF.
"We work with government and the ruling Zanu PF," he said.
"I know people say this should not be said but that is the truth. We are Zanu PF."
Chiefs from the eight provinces tabled their challenges and demands, with the most recurring being that of an increment to their allowances, getting farms, chieftainship wrangles and an improvement on their homesteads infrastructure, among others.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa promised the traditional leaders that a chiefs council meeting would be called soon where ministers would be invited to answer to the challenges.
He, however, said government could not meet all the traditional leaders' demands but would make efforts to address their concerns.
Meanwhile, opposition parties have condemned the meeting of traditional leaders and Mnangagwa at the Zanu PF convention centre, saying it signified the continued desire by the ruling party to perpetuate the abuse of chiefs ahead of this year's elections.
The opposition charged that by such action, traditional leaders were allowing themselves to be a willing tool in Zanu PF's campaign strategy that sometimes trampled on people's rights.
MDC-T secretary for elections, Murisi Zvizvai said by holding the meeting at a Zanu PF property where the chiefs received freebies, it sent wrong signals on their impartiality as the country headed for elections.
"It is saddening to note that the president has taken advantage of such a partisan gathering to dole out vehicles which were purchased by public funds to try and entice the traditional leadership to support and work for Zanu PF as we go for elections," Zvizvai said.
People's Democratic Party spokesperson Jacob Mafume said they had no problems with chiefs but the timing of the meeting with the president was suspicious.
"We have no quarrel with the chiefs, nor do we wish that they do not get cars. The timing is just bad and it's always close to elections; always when a campaign is about to happen that they are remembered and then they are forgotten all year," he said.
"They must start thinking about the people and not themselves and must not allow the old politics to continue and make enemies of the people. They must learn from what happened to the police," he said.
Transform Zimbabwe leader Jacob Ngarivhume said Mnangagwa's administration had failed to distinguish itself from that of Mugabe.
"This shows that nothing has changed. The oppressive system which uses patronage is still in place. In as much as it was abused by Mugabe, Mnangagwa and the military hegemony are using it. Mnangagwa and Mugabe use the same system," he said.