Grace Mugabe and Emmerson Mnangagwa led Zanu PF factions shall momentarily shift their focus to primary elections due to be held either in the final quarter of this year or early next year, as they battle for control of the National Assembly.

The legislature, split into two – the upper chamber and the lower chamber — is one of the three organs of the State crucial in opening doors for whoever might succeed President Robert Mugabe in the event that he exits the grand political stage for whatever reason.

 Although Mugabe, 93, has indicated his desire to stay on for as long as his party wants him to, this has not stopped party underlings to plan beyond him, hence the emergence of rival factions that are positioning their preferred proxies to succeed him.

With Mugabe having kick-started his re-election campaign, disguised as provincial youth interface meetings, the factions within his party – Generation 40 (G40) and Team Lacoste – are losing sleep over the impending primary polls, used to select candidates to represent Zanu PF in national polls.

 At his party’s 2014 congress, Mugabe secured the ticket to represent Zanu PF as its presidential candidate, making him the only official in his party given the green light to proceed to do-or-die polls in 2018.

Even though dates for next year’s general elections are yet to be set, Zanu PF factions have since signalled their parliamentary hopefuls to engage in subtle campaigns in anticipation of a call for early primary polls.

Both factions are aiming to control the National Assembly, comprising 210 seats for Members of Parliament and 93 seats for Senators.

Were Mugabe to be incapacitated, resign, removed from office or die, the new Constitution states that until 2023, the vice president who last acted as president assumes office as president for the next 90 days until the party nominates a replacement for consideration by Parliament.

To that extent, the National Assembly has become the new frontier in Zanu PF’s succession wars as it could have the final say on who might take over from Mugabe, in the event that he exits politics.

Zanu PF prohibits its members from engaging in premature campaigns, but notwithstanding, members have hardly been bothered because they always get away with it.

The party’s national spokesperson, Simon Khaya Moyo, told the Daily News recently that they had not yet sanctioned the campaigns, warning that the party would act on those who defy its orders.

“I am not aware of any pronouncement by the party officially sanctioning such campaigns. Those doing so are violating party principles,” said Khaya Moyo.

The Zanu PF national spokesperson could not say when Zanu PF would hold its primary elections, preferring to say: “I will let you know when the time comes.”

Mugabe has been addressing huge crowds in different provinces, calling on Zanu PF cadres to get ready for elections, thereby latently opening up another frontier for a deadly factional fight for control of party structures.

On Friday, Mugabe will be addressing his seventh Zanu PF youth interface rally in Gweru – the provincial capital of the Midlands.

There is belief within the party that its hierarchy could call the election of representatives for the constituencies across the country earlier, even before the end of the year, to give selected candidates time to prepare for the general elections.

This has created a battle over their “winnable” seats between G40 and Team Lacoste, locked in an intriguing battle over who should succeed Mugabe when he exits the political scene.

Team Lacoste backs Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who recently survived an alleged food poisoning attack, to succeed Mugabe while G40 appears to be torn between Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi and the Zanu PF leader’s wife, Grace.

 Party officials from various provinces told the Daily News in off-the-record briefings yesterday that bare knuckle fights are underway anyhow with the president’s increasingly frailty not helping the situation.

Both factions have lined up at least one candidate to battle the rival group, with seating MPs at risk of losing their seats. daily news