Sources say Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's former ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front or ZANU-PF is deeply divided over the timing of the next elections despite having demanded in a December conference they be held in 2011.
Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, chief negotiator for ZANU-PF issues related to the Global Political Agreement underpinning the power-sharing unity government in Harare, has said reforms including drafting of a new constitution and its approval by Parliament and the Zimbabwean people could oblige elections to be put off to 2013.
"It is my own opinion that it is not possible to hold elections this year. We need to start talking about elections next year or 2013, assuming that the [constitutional] referendum is completed in September" as projected by the parliamentary select committee in charge of the constitutional revision process, Chinamasa told the state-run Herald newspaper.
President Mugabe is under pressure from the Southern African Development Community not to call elections this year as he has threatened to do, but rather to institute reforms prescribed by the Global Political Agreement before proceeding to a ballot.
But Chinamasa has come under fire from ZANU-PF hardliners led by the Joint Operation Command comprising top officials in the national security apparatus, including the police, which has taken charge of many aspects of ZANU-PF's electoral machine.
Sources said the Joint Operations Command has detailed retired Air Vice Marshal Henry Muchena to take over the position of ZANU-PF Director of the Commissariat. Reporting to him as deputy is Sydney Nyanhongo, former internal affairs director of the Central Intelligence Organization, which falls under the office of the president.
Sources said hundreds of serving army members of lower ranks have been deployed to campaign for ZANU-PF across the country..
ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo told VOA reporter Blessing Zulu that statements by Chinamasa on the timing of elections reflect his personal views, not the party's.
Political analyst Charles Mangongera said the fallout is uncharacteristic of ZANU-PF.