HARARE – As the Zanu PF factional wars get deadlier and dirtier, the party faction linked to embattled Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa is increasingly mounting an open rebellion against President Robert Mugabe and his influential wife Grace, amid indications that the group wants the soon-to-be 92 years old leader out of office before the 2018 elections.

So in-your-face and aggressive have some of the utterances and tactics being employed by Team Lacoste — as the Mnangagwa faction is known — become, that there are renewed fears within Zanu PF that the ruling party’s escalating factional and succession brawls could soon boil over into bloody conflict.

Well-placed sources told the Daily News yesterday that what was particularly perturbing was the fact that Mnangagwa’s followers were increasingly challenging not just Grace, but Mugabe himself as well, in their public utterances — a situation they said did not augur well for the future of the party and the country.

“We have now entered a new ugly and uncharted territory in the life of the party and the country, where it’s difficult to predict what will happen next.

“What many of us are worried about the most is that those who are said to be fighting for Mnangagwa are more and more daring and challenging both Mugabe and his wife Grace openly, which is unheard of,” a politburo member who claims to be “non-aligned” said.

Another party insider told the Daily News last week that he was “very worried” about the extent to which the two main factions battling for supremacy within the former liberation movement now appeared “to hate each other”.

“I think anyone who says that they are not concerned by the wars will be lying. The truth of the matter is that at the rate at which things are deteriorating, it may be a matter of time before we see body bags in places like Harare and the Midlands,” the senior Zanu PF official said.

Contacted yesterday in the wake of the political developments of the past few days within the warring party, the official said the situation had “worsened” — pointing to the alleged launch by Mnangagwa’s allies of an “ominous and shady” programme dubbed Operation Shumba.

“Indeed, what is this Operation Shumba? Is it merely a play on Mnangagwa’s totem or it’s a more sinister project that is underway?

“And what makes what is happening now less grave than what (former VP) Joice Mujuru and (ex-war veterans leader) Jabulani Sibanda were expelled for from the party? I fear for the peace and stability of this country,” he said.

A source close to Team Lacoste said yesterday that there was a feeling in the camp that Grace’s blistering attack on Mnangagwa and his faction last Friday had “the blessings of the president himself” — adding further that it was “disappointing” that Mugabe had “failed” to stop his wife from opposing the Midlands godfather.

He said it was even contemplated that the faction, using a section of war veterans from the ousted veterans executive, would see the camp embarking on mass demonstrations in Harare soon.

“Apart from this, you must understand that the security establishment is critical in this war, hence the constant reference to the sector, seeing that it (security sector) is also under siege from the G40 (Zanu PF’s Young Turks known as the Generation 40 group who are opposed to Mnangagwa succeeding Mugabe),” he said.

State media, and in particular the faction’s main propaganda mouthpiece, The Herald, have also over the past few days ratcheted up their assault on Grace, VP Phelekezela Mphoko, Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere, Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo, and other perceived G40 bigwigs.

Writing on his Twitter handle in response to the fightback by Mnangagwa’s allies, Moyo said he was, for once, “speechless” about the faction’s open rebellion.

“Agreed. I have said I’m tweetless after reading today’s openly defiant & rebellious lead story in @HeraldZimbabwe! We’ve heard & read of pasi neG40 slogans but never pamberi neG40. Now we read & hear of pamberi neOperation Shumba!

“@HeraldZimbabwe has some explaining to do. What does the slogan pamberi neOperation Shumba mean? Handei tione (bring it on)!

“@HeraldZimbabwe quotes matter of factly lies Tomana was arrested & “sentenced to a year in prison”. Handei tione!” Moyo said.

In the meantime, the suspended party leadership in the provinces of Masvingo and Midlands are doggedly dismissing their suspensions as a nullity — in apparent defiance to Kasukuwere who announced the suspensions acting on instructions from Mugabe.

Conelious Mupereri, the Zanu PF Midlands provincial executive, told the Daily News yesterday that the charges laid against their leadership were “baseless and therefore hard to accept”.

“The decision to suspend our chairperson only came much later and we will only sit and decide later. We do not have dates yet. But the problem with that decision is that the allegations are not valid because no one was ever beaten or stopped from attending the (Harare) rally,” he said.

“It is difficult to see why a person could be charged on such baseless allegations,” a defiant Mupereri said.

Reacting to utterances by deposed war veterans leader Christopher Mutsvangwa and his ousted executive on Monday, interim chairperson of the war veterans, Mandi Chimene, said Mutsvangwa and company were wasting their time.

“Hapana anombobvuma (it is normal for ousted people to resist their dismissal), even when a wife is shown the door she continues holding on saying handiende, handiende (I will not go)”, she said.

“Even during the war, some left us and that can happen. I am not talking about factions but about war veterans loyal to the president. Have you ever heard me being associated with any power mongering?

“I was actually surprised when I heard that comrades had made me their leader. If they are interested in future elections they can come back and contest, but for now vambonzi imbomirai makonewa (they have been turfed out),” Chimene added.

Speaking in Harare on Monday, former war veterans secretary-general, Victor Matemadanda, took direct aim at Grace, panning the “abusive language and the vilification of the war veterans” at her Rushinga rally in October last year.

He also claimed that there was brutal and inhuman treatment of citizens by Kasukuwere through the destruction of people’s homes and livelihoods in urban areas — an effective attack on Mugabe who demanded the latest house demolitions in Harare.

Matemadanda also waded into the sub-judice matter involving the criminal case against Prosecutor-General Johannes Tomana, which is related to the recent attempted bombing of Gushungo Dairy in Mazowe.

He also bizarrely claimed that Tomana had been tried and sentenced to one-year in prison, while he was out of the country on State business.

“Where else have you seen a prosecutor-general being tried and sentenced while in the west or north Africa? He was sentenced to a year in prison. Imagine this is a man you entrusted as the custodian of your laws,” Matemadanda said.

“He is arrested, tried and sentenced while he is far way from his country. You shove him in an open truck. You are humiliating your own Constitution. You want us to be persuaded by somebody to see that this is nonsense,” he said.

And in pointed remarks similar to what had seen former war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda being expelled from Zanu PF, Matemadanda said: “The powers of the State are not given to two or three people. It is one and that one is President Mugabe.”

He also savaged Mphoko indirectly, saying there was no place for ethnicity slurs in Zimbabwe as the co-VP had allegedly done when he spoke at Grace’s Chiweshe rally last week.