THE Zanu-PF internal battle to succeed President Robert Mugabe took a new twist as one of the silently warring factions has moved acres ahead towards power by schematically romping into victory in the just ended Mashonaland West provincial elections.
According to politburo sources, who requested anonymity, the Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa faction used the Mashonaland West elections as a test case of their strength and popularity in Vice President Mujuru's perceived strongholds.
Mnangagwa is the Defence minister in President Mugabe's government.
This comes after revelations by party insiders that President Mugabe is reportedly under pressure from some conservative party die-hards who want VP Mujuru to take over after his retirement or if anything happens to him.
President Mugabe is now 87 years old and has off late been said to be visiting Asian countries to seek healing for various ailments.
The party insiders said the fact that John Mafa bounced back as Zanu-PF provincial chairperson for Mashonaland West after being ousted from the factional fighting in the former ruling party by VP Mujuru's lieutenants, is a clear sign that her fortunes are waning in the race for the top post.
Mafa, a Mnanagwa blue-eyed boy, resoundingly toppled aspiring pro VP Mujuru candidates who included Rueben Marumahoko, Walter Chidhakwa and Moffat Marashwa in a an election that was presided over by Women, Gender and Development minister Olivia Muchena.
According to party insiders who requested anonymity for fear of internal reprisals, Chidakwa was being backed by Local Government, Rural and Urban Development minister Ignatius Chombo whereas Marumahoko had Information and Publicity minister Webster Shamu rooting for him.
To put the icing on the cake there is corridor talk within Zanu-PF that some young Turks who include Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment minister Saviour Kasukuwere have also drifted towards Mnangagwa faction as evidenced by his continued visibility in Mnangagwa's functions.
"Kasukuwere does not support Mai Mujuru, he in fact sympathises with a more stable Mnangagwa from whom he thinks he can assume the reigns of real power," said a Mnangagwa sympathiser.
He added: "In politics you go where the wind is blowing, in our situation it is clear that the all now favours Mnagagwa's camp."
President Mugabe is on record of denying Mnangagwa the VP post in 2004 when he facilitated the rise of VP Mujuru to that position, giving rise to suspicions that he is pro-Mujuru camp.
In Mashonaland East, half of the members of parliament now support Mnangagwa, with reports that the governor and resident minister of the province, Ananias Chigwedere is 'leading a campaign' of behalf of Mnangagwa, sources said.
Whereas in Mashonaland Central province, a camp led by Kanengoni who is a central committee member and director in the President's Office (Central Intelligence Organisation) has divided the province into two, one led by Mnangagwa and the other by VP Mujuru.
"What was supposed to be her (VP Mujuru) bastion of power has been invaded by the Mnangagwa faction and what happened in Mashonaland West is a slap in the face for President Mugabe who has a history of embarrassing Mnangagwa," said a source.
Another Mnangagwa faithful added:
"It is clear that Cde E.D (Emerson Mnangagwa) camp has the software whereas the Mujuru camp has the hardware, given a free and fair election within Zanu-PF, Cde ED is clearly the next president of the party and its first secretary," she said.
"Following the thumping of the VP Mujuru faction in the Mashonaland West election, VP Mujuru is faced with mass defections as people in her camp are panicking," said a source.