HARARE: The apparent plan by former leader Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace to sink President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s election bid in this year’s keenly-anticipated national polls is effectively dead in the water.

This comes as the political project that the Mugabes are backing for their mooted mission, the National Patriotic Front (NPF), has been hit by what insiders describe as “fatal divisions and paralysis”.

At the same time, the party’s ‘‘missing in action” interim president, Ambrose Mutinhiri, is also said to be considering his future — amid damaging talk that he is being abused by the former first family in the same way that they used Zanu-PF politburo member Sydney Sekeramayi at the height of the ruling party’s deadly succession wars.

Mugabe’s nephew, Patrick Zhuwao, a former Cabinet minister under the frail nonagenarian, further threw the cat among the pigeons on Monday when he accused former Zanu-PF national political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere of being used by Mnangagwa’s government to lead a splinter group against the NPF.

Zhuwao, Kasukuwere and former Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo – who all fled into self-imposed exile following the fall of Mugabe from power in November last year – were once close political allies who were identified as the kingpins of the ruling party’s Generation 40 (G40) faction which coalesced around Mugabe and Grace before the 94-year-old was stunningly deposed from the throne with the help of an intervention by the military.

Until then, the annihilated G40 was locked in a brutal war of attrition with Mnangagwa and his supporters for control of both Zanu-PF and the country.

Zhuwao’s surprise attacks on Kasukuwere were prompted by unconfirmed reports that the former Local Government minister may be negotiating with Mnangagwa and his inner circle for his return with some sources insisting that he is already in Zimbabwe under state protection.

“Reports are coming through that the military junta is incubating the establishment of a copy-cat to the National Patriotic Front, to be called the ZNPF in an effort to derail the real NPF.

“The reports indicate that this copy-cat ZNPF junta project will seek to hijack the membership of the real NPF and subsume them under the leadership of Saviour Kasukuwere.

“Kasukuwere’s dogged determination to return to a Zimbabwe that is under the yoke of the military junta has also left me questioning his motives. The only way in which someone walks into a dangerously fatal situation is if they have been given assurances for their safety.

“Given the threat that the real NPF poses to the military junta, it is conceivable that such a guarantee can only have been secured by way of a commitment to derail the real NPF,” the loose-tongued Zhuwao thundered.

“This ZBR (Zhuwao Brief Reloaded) is being written for the express purpose of putting on the record that I, as Patrick Zhuwao, am not part of Kasukuwere’s current political shenanigans and manoeuvring.

Meanwhile Kasukuwere hinted his arrival in post that he later took offline:

“Zim is my country. When I decide on my on to go back to my country I will. I don’t need to seek permission from anyone. No criminal charge to worry about,” he said.

  NPF interim secretary-general Shadreck Mashayamombe later told reporters that Kasukuwere would be confirmed as their new leader soon.

“He is coming back and coming to lead us this week,” he said.