The entry of Defence minister Sydney Sekeremayi in the race to succeed President Robert Mugabe has intensified Zanu PF factional wars amid accusations that some senior leaders are holding clandestine meetings to promote rival candidates.
Zanu PF social media platforms have become the new battleground in the ruling party’s power games, with a faction linked to first lady Grace Mugabe, known as G40, accusing Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s supporters of launching a fight back strategy to peg back the top Mashonaland East politician.
Mnangagwa had been viewed as a shoo in to succeed the ageing Mugabe, but the stakes were raised over a week ago after Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo, accused of being a G40 kingpin, threw Sekeremayi’s name into the hat.
While Moyo insisted that he was proposing the minister’s name as an academic, subsequent pronouncements by Mugabe have raised speculation that the move was well-calculated.
Zanu PF insiders say the 93-year-old ruler has already anointed Sekeremayi as his successor.
According to Zanu PF insiders, the faction backing Mnangagwa has reacted swiftly to the latest developments and is preparing a counter strategy against their G40 rivals.
Team Lacoste, as the faction backing Mnangagwa is popularly known, allegedly held two high-profile meetings in Harare between last Sunday and Wednesday to re-strategise.
According to well-placed sources, the first meeting was held last Sunday at the 15th floor of a local hotel from 7pm until very late while the second one was held on Wednesday at the same venue.
The meetings were reportedly attended by Team Lacoste strategists from the country’s 10 provinces who include some in Zanu PF provincial structures, ministers, war veterans and some former officials expelled from the party on allegations of undermining Mugabe and his wife, Grace.
The Sunday meeting was reportedly chaired by one of Mnangagwa’s top allies from Midlands who is a former cabinet minister and one time permanent secretary.
“The Sunday meeting resolved to set provincial co-ordinators in the Mashonaland provinces that will co-ordinate Team Lacoste work and facilitate the collapse of the existing Zanu PF structures that are anti-Mnangagwa,” a well-placed source who attended both meetings said.
“The meeting also resolved to continue the battle against Saviour Kasukuwere until he is forced out so that his G40 structures are collapsed.”
The Wednesday meeting, according to the source, was chaired by Harare East MP Terrance Mukupe. It was reportedly attended by some of the members who attended the Sunday meeting.
“This was a follow-up meeting to the Sunday one and was focussing on implementation,” the source said.
“It was agreed that we move with speed so that Sekeramayi will not be given a chance for take-off.”
However, Mukupe yesterday denied charges that he chaired a Lacoste meeting, saying he merely had lunch with his friends.
“There was never any meeting at the Rainbow,” he said.
“However my meetings with fellow comrades for lunch are a daily thing.
“We have been having lunch with like-minded comrades and this is good for us to bond as brothers as well as making sure that we maintain Harare as a Zanu PF stronghold come 2018 elections.”
He added: “What’s interesting is that the person who was saying I’m having factional meetings, Shoko, is not from Harare and has no authority to comment on meetings we are having in Harare.”
Mukupe released a message that he claimed was being circulated by Munyaradzi Shoko on Zanu PF social media groups.
Shoko is leader of the Children of Zimbabwe War Veterans Association, a grouping of children of war veterans reported to have links to G40.
Mukupe also accused Harare South MP Shadreck Mashayamombe of leaking malicious information.
But Mashayamombe, however, said he was not aware of the alleged meetings.
“If he is saying I am the one who leaked it, he is confirming the meetings. He should leave me out of this. If he had the meetings, I am not the one who forced him,” he said.
“I don’t know anything about that, it is common knowledge that Mukupe always wants to fight me. If he had the meeting, he should be man enough and own up, than drop my name where it does not fit.”
Shoko claimed he had evidence that Mukupe organised the meetings.
“In fact, there are not two meetings, there are three, the two at Rainbow Hotel and the other one at Showgrounds that they posed as lunch,” he claimed.
“At Showgrounds, he was accompanied by the Harare Lacoste structure that included Godwin Gomwe. I don’t know why they hate Mugabe.”
Shoko also named a number of senior Zanu PF officials that he claimed attended the meetings.
Mugabe at a rally in Marondera complained that the succession issue had turned tribal, warning his lieutenants to stop fighting for positions.