Under-fire Finance deputy minister Terrence Mukupe has accused one of President Emmerson Mnangagwa's closest aides of being behind an alleged plot to tarnish his image after the Zanu PF politician latched from one scandal to another last week.
Mukupe raised dust after a video of him telling Zanu PF supporters that the military will not allow MDC Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa to rule even if he wins the forthcoming elections surfaced.
On Thursday, the Harare East MP was roundly condemned after he claimed former Finance minister Tendai Biti was on anti-retroviral [ARV] treatment during a live radio interview.
After the interview, the deputy minister allegedly attacked journalist Blessed Mhlanga and his wife. Mhlanga writes for Alpha Media Holdings titles The Standard and NewsDay.
Mukupe, despite the existence of the video, denies saying that the army did not topple former president Robert Mugabe so that Chamisa could rule.
He told ruling party sympathisers, who belong to a WhatsApp group known as Zanu PF patriots, that Mnangagwa's spokesperson George Charamba was allegedly out to destroy him because he had beaten his "girlfriend Mavis Gumbo" in the recent primary elections.
Mukupe was dismissing a government statement issued by acting Information minister Simon Khaya Moyo condemning his utterances.
"Firstly, nowhere did the government say I made those statements," he said.
"Secondly, ask yourself what was the motivation of Charamba to come up with that press statement without consulting me and even seeing the video of the meeting.
"It is a fact that Mavis Gumbo is a looser (sic) and it is a fact that Charamba has been sleeping with Mavis Gumbo."
In the discussion, Mukupe boasted that he was wooing students to join Zanu PF and defending Mnangagwa on social media.
"Give me one Zanu PF politician in the past 38 years who has been able to face university students and to preach them the gospel of Zanu PF," he charged.
"Everyone has been ducking and diving. I have a calling and will do just that."
He also lashed out at Zanu PF sympathisers on the WhatsApp group saying: "Let's not be WhatsApp activists and get into the field. This is politics, not a church."
Mukupe did not respond to questions sent to him on the matter. Charamba said he was not the author of Moyo's statement condemning the deputy minister's utterances.
The president's spokesperson retorted: "Who issued the statement that he is reacting to? So he is suggesting that the minister is so daft to the extent that he can't write his statement on his own?
"He must tell that directly to the minister, not to me. I will not respond to other issues that are peripheral.
"If he thinks the minister has no capacity to respond on behalf of government, then he is suggesting something else, which I cannot respond to."
On the other hand, Gumbo said although she was aware of the WhatsApp messages, she was not interested in a fight with Mukupe.
Meanwhile, the deputy minister issued a statement yesterday denying that he said the army would stop Chamisa from taking overfron Mnangagwa and seemed to justify his attack against Biti and Mhlanga.
"I feel it is of the utmost importance to apologise and clarify on some statements that have been misinterpreted and in some cases deliberately distorted and misrepresented," he said.
"I am a passionate supporter of both the president and our highly professional military and for that I will never apologise."
Mukupe said his utterances had been taken out of context by "aggressive and unruly opposition elements".
"Let me be clear that I stand firmly with the president and government in calling for free and fair elections," he said.
The former banker said his ARVs rant against Biti was a response to a provocation by the MDC Alliance principal who allegedly used vulgar language during the radio interview.
"Though I was abused and insulted by the tone and content of Biti's interview, I should not have responded in such a way and I apologise for the offence I have caused by the remarks I made pertaining to ARVs," he said.
He claimed Mhlanga and his wife also provoked him during the interview at the ZBC-run radio station.
"While his provocative behaviour, cheered on by his female counterpart, in itself was disgraceful, I do apologise for my untoward response of walking away from the interview," he said.
"As a deputy minister and representative of the Zimbabwean people, in future I must focus my passion for my people, Zimbabwe's financial well-being."
Mukupe has been roundly condemned for his ARV remarks with Aids activists saying he rolled back strides made in ending the stigmatisation of Zimbabweans living with the virus.
Zimbabweans on social media yesterday were also dismissive of the "apology", saying it showed the Zanu PF politician was unrepentant.
"Utterly pathetic 'apology'," former Education minister David Coltart tweeted. "This simply demonstrates the arrogance not just of this man, but of the military junta.
"If this stands, please would no democrat say to me again that he or she believes a free, fair and lawful election is possible. It will simply be an insult."
Mukupe also drew fire from social media users after he insulted Coltart's son Doug for calling him out on his utterances about the army.