Authoritative sources said hardliners in the party and members of the Emmerson Mnangagwa faction were furious that Mugabe dumped the idea of an early election in favour of Mujuru’s recommendations that polls should not be held early for the good of the still fragile economy.
Mujuru, who is battling against Mnangangwa to succeed the 86-year-old leader, made the recommendations before the party’s Mutare conference last month following consultations with the business community.
The sources said Zanu PF hardliners and the Mnangagwa faction pushed for an early election before the party’s conference last December.
Although the Mutare conference resolved to hold elections this year without fail, Mugabe heeded Mujuru’s advice after coming under immense pressure from South African President Jacob Zuma.
Zuma in his capacity as the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) mediator in Zimbabwe is demanding extensive reforms to enable free and fair elections to be held in the country following the inconclusive 2008 polls.
Just before the conference, Mugabe who has ruled Zimbabwe for the past three decades had vowed that elections would be held before June this year with or without the new constitution.
He, however, made an unusual about-turn after meeting with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputy Arthur Mutambara soon after the conference, telling the nation that elections would be held after the crafting of the new supreme law.
“Hardliners are furious that he dumped all they had agreed on in Mutare in favour of Mujuru’s recommendations,” said one source.
“When Zanu PF went to the conference, they had two main things: Early elections and pushing the indigenisation agenda but talk of both slackened after Mugabe listened to Mujuru’s advice.”
Government has since frozen the controversial indigenisation law after admitting that it is discouraging the badly-needed foreign investment.
Political observers last week said it was highly unlikely that polls would be held this year, especially with reports emerging that the new constitution can only be finalised later in the year.
By adopting Mujuru’s recommendations, said another Zanu PF source, the Mnangagwa faction feels that the octogenarian leader has “anointed” her to takeover after his departure.
“The notion was strengthened further when Mujuru attended the swearing in of a Brazilian woman President, Dilma Rousseff last week,” said the source.
The source said Mnangagwa’s faction believes that it is better placed to take over from Mugabe if elections were held soon when “it still has control of most of the party’s provinces.”
As Mujuru and Mnangagwa tussle for Mugabe’s post, sources said, a new and ambitious faction, led by a senior army official, has emerged and is waiting in the political wings for its chance.
“There is a top army official who calls himself Zim2, meaning he is next in line to take over when Mugabe finally leaves office,” said one source.
“It is not yet clear if he is still supporting one of the two presidential aspirants but the fact that he is calling himself Zim2 entails he has his own ambitious.”
Mugabe is referred as Zim1 by virtue of being president of the country.
Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo said the party was guided by the Global Political Agreement (GPA), signed by Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputy Arthur Mutambara three years ago, as far as the holding of elections was concerned.
He denied that Mugabe had changed his mind on early elections.
“We, as Zanu PF, are guided by the GPA that there should be the crafting of a new constitution followed by a referendum and then elections,” Gumbo said.
“But what we also said is that if there is dilly-dallying, we will look at other means, which means we look at holding elections without that constitution.”
Gumbo however could not confirm or deny if there were some Zanu PF members who were agitated by Mugabe’s sudden change of heart.
“I don’t know,” he said. “There might be some difference of opinion in the party regarding elections but overally, as I said we are guided by the GPA and we are very clear on that.”
When Mugabe elevated Mujuru to vice-president in December 2004, he appeared to have anointed her as his successor by saying she was destined for higher office.
But relations between the two appeared to have cooled after reports linking Mujuru to a faction in the party pushing her to take over from Mugabe surfacing.
Mujuru is the wife of former army chief General Solomon Mujuru who has remained highly influential in government and military circles.
Mugabe had in the past attacked members of his inner cabal jostling for the presidency, saying some were consulting traditional healers under the cover of darkness to enhance their chances.
The veteran ruler is on record declaring that there was no vacancy for the presidency and last month’s Zanu PF conference chose him as its candidate for the next polls.