A clique of Zanu PF members is reportedly plotting to oust ailing Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga on grounds of incapacitation as factional fights gripping the ruling party resurface and intensify, the Zimbabwe Independent can report.
Chiwenga has been receiving medical treatment in China after being airlifted from a South African hospital in June, amid frenzied jostling by senior party officials angling to take over his influential positions.
The former commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces was unable to eat when he was airlifted, resulting in him becoming emaciated due to illness and lack of food.
The renewed push to remove Chiwenga comes at a time he is on a recovery path, although he is likely to remain holed up in Beijing for some time.
He recently underwent two operations to clear his blocked oesophagus. Information gathered this week indicates that he is still not able to eat solid food, although he can now talk, walk and do light exercises.
Chiwenga's associates say he was poisoned by political rivals during the coup.
Zanu PF insiders say Chiwenga's rivals want to take advantage of his prolonged absence from office to oust him from power on charges of incapacitation.
"We have a group that is plotting the removal of the VP, while he is still away because they fear he may escalate the succession fight," a Zanu PF official said.
"They want to use Section 97 of the constitution which provides for the removal of a Vice-President on conditions of incapacitation. The idea is for them to get some members of the opposition to move the motion in parliament and then support it. But the general and his allies will not go down without a fight."
A number of Chiwenga's loyalists have been purged from the party and influenti positions in the security sector
Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo said he had not heard anything about the issue.
"I have not heard anything about that issue. And on the question of divisions in the party I am not aware of any divisions," he said.
Moyo also said he was not aware that there had been violence at the party's internal elections to select members of the district co-ordinating committees held last month resulting in their suspension. The violence was caused by renewed infighting within the party.
"I was in Mozambique for the elections and nobody ever told me that there was any violence," Moyo said.
According to section 97 of the constitution on the removal of President or Vice-President from office: "(1) The Senate and the National Assembly, by a joint resolution passed by at least one-half of their total membership, may resolve that the question whether or not the President or a Vice-President should be removed from office for-- ... (d) inability to perform the functions of the office because of physical or mental incapacity; should be investigated in terms of this section."
"(2) Upon the passing of a resolution in terms of subsection (1), the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders must appoint a joint committee of the Senate and the National Assembly consisting of nine members reflecting the political composition of Parliament, to investigate the removal from office of the President or Vice-President, as the case may be.
"(3) If -- (a) the joint committee appointed in terms of subsection (2) recommends the removal from office of the President or Vice-President; and b) the Senate and the National Assembly, by a joint resolution passed by at least two-thirds of their total membership, may resolve that the President or Vice-President, as the case may be, should be removed from office; the President or Vice-President thereupon ceases to hold office."
Although President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Chiwenga were allies ahead of the November 2017 military coup that toppled the late former president Robert Mugabe, sharp divisions emerged as the duo battled to control the heart and soul of Zanu PF and government.
Insiders say initially the coup deal was that Mnangagwa would come in as a civilian face and serve one term and go, leaving power to Chiwenga.
However, Mnangagwa's repeated talk of two terms soon after assuming power widened the rift between the two and renewed factionalism.
Mnangagwa wanted to appoint Muchinguri-Kashiri as one of his deputies soon after the coup which ended Mugabe's 37-year rule, but the military demanded that the position be given to Chiwenga, who also at the time insisted on being in charge of the influential Defence and War Veterans portfolios.
Zanu PF insiders told the Independent in August that Chiwenga's health woes have ignited frenzied jostling for his seat, with Muchinguri-Kashiri emerging as the front-runner.
At the time, many Zanu PF officials were convinced the former military commander would not survive.