In the absence of the two late political giants, former Vice-President Simon Muzenda and Zanu Legal supremo Eddison Zvobgo, the province has been left exposed, allowing protégés of the Mujuru and Mnangagwa factions to fight their wars openly.
These two factions, it is commonly understood, are contenders to the throne in the event that President Robert Mugabe exits the political stage and they see the province with over 1,2 million people as crucial to their plans.
But what is certain about the turbulent Masvingo turf is that it has often turned out to be a burying ground for Zanu PF heavyweights who once thought they were invincible.
When the Emmerson Mnangagwa faction fell from grace following the Tsholotsho debacle a few years ago, the balance of power has over the years shifted in favour of the Mujuru camp. And the impact of this was felt in Masvingo.
Businessman Daniel Shumba lost his position as Zanu PF provincial chairman.
Former Governor, Willard Chiwewe, was to be relieved of his duties after serving only one term.
Lost and forgotten former Masvingo governor, Josiah Hungwe, from the Mnangagwa faction, who had been in hibernating in the political wilderness after relocating to Chivi, was set to get a new lease of life as Chivi Mwenezi senator.
Former Chiredzi Council town clerk, Titus Maluleke, a Shangani, assumed the governorship post. Other surprises were also to come when Mugabe appointed politburo members.
Minister Stan Mudenge, believed to be the “godfather” of the Mnangagwa faction in the province, retained his seat in the politburo.
Maluleke’s wife, Otilia, jetted into Zanu PF’s supreme decision body, with other members of their faction getting influential posts.
Lucky members of the Mujuru faction who got in as a balancing act like Mavhaire got less influential posts.
Former army retired major, Alex Mudavanhu, then Zanu PF chairman, failed to contest for the post after wilting under immense pressure from party supporters in favour of the late Vice-President Muzenda’s blue eyed boy and former Gutu MP, Lovemore Matuke. Matuke is linked to the “ruling faction”, currently with the reigns.
The winds of political change also buffeted across the Zanu PF wings like the women’s league, youth as well as the influential constituency, the war veterans.
Retired colonel Josphat Rupuwo trounced former provincial war vets chair Isaiah Muzenda in what the latter viewed as coup, arguing that the elections were held without his knowledge. Muzenda claimed to be the provincial war veterans chairman, although nobody in the party recognises him.
Mujuru charm offensive pays dividends
In a political comeback, and still trying to pick up the pieces, those linked to the Mujuru faction, as a way to keep close to the people, have engaged in an ambitious project which is endearing themselves with the electorate.
Under the South East Growers Association (Sega) where farmers are rewarded for producing cotton, small grains, as well as bull breeding programmes, the faction is gaining ground slowly but surely, fighting for their political space.
Sega is said to be Vice-President Joice Mujuru’s brainchild. Mujuru is the national patron, while Dzikamai Mavhaire is the provincial patron.
All the provincial programmess are masterminded by Mavhaire and his close ally, Walter Mutsauri, former Bikita East legislator, as well as their sidekicks in the Mujuru faction here.
SEGA has brought senior politicians like the Vice-President Mujuru and Zanu PF chairman Simon Khaya-Moyo several times in the province’s garnering support for their faction’s candidates in several constituencies.
The Zanu PF source said the balance of power was tilting in favour of the Mujuru faction which has made great inroads and deeply penetrated the province to get grassroots support.
Jabulani Sibanda ups the stakes in the province
One politician who denied links with any of the factions said politicians from the Mnangagwa camp had countered moves by the Mujuru group by deploying war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda.
Sibanda’s brief is reported to be to get traditional chiefs’ backing for their preferred candidates
“Jabulani Sibanda’s deployment to Masvingo is not by mistake. Look at which candidates in Zanu PF he is propelling. He is on a mission to bolster support for the ruling faction in the party. Some may believe that he is doing it on behalf of Zanu PF as a whole, which is untrue,”said the source.
But Sibanda, in a recent interview, said he was just making his “revolutionary contribution” to Masvingo without fear or favour.
On the surface, added the source, the jostling for constituencies would appear as a contest for constituencies by individual Zanu PF aspirants, but deep down, factionalism is at play as the two warring factions in the party tussle to get possession of the province.