The battle to succeed Zimbabwe's aging President Robert Mugabe is tearing his ZANU-PF party apart as factions move to position themselves in case he decides to leave office.
President Mugabe has indicated his desire to participate in the country's next elections that he wants held this year, though his governing partners insist polls can only be called after democratic reforms have been implemented.
Sources say the succession issue is at the centre of intensifying factional fighting in the former ruling party, which is currently in the process of restructuring.
On-going district coordinating committee elections nation wide have been marred by serious infighting with results being nullified in a number of provinces.
Mr. Mugabe’s health has been the subject of intense speculation with foreign media last year saying he had undergone surgery for prostate cancer in Malaysia. But the 88-year old Mugabe and his office dismissed the accounts.
ZANU-PF sources told VOA that factions loyal to Vice President Joice Mujuru and Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangangwa are fighting it out in the district elections causing serious friction and divisions within the party.
Though Mujuru and Mnangagwa have scoffed at suggestions that they want to succeed Mr. Mugabe, their supporters are being blamed for the violence that has marred the restructuring exercise in almost five provinces.
In Masvingo Tuesday, Higher Education Minister Stan Mudenge, who's said to belong to the Mnangagwa faction, had to be rescued by anti-riot police when youths alleged to be loyal to Mujuru threatened to attack him.
In Manicaland, Matebeleland and Masvingo, ZANU-PF supporters have been clashing for weeks now, disputing election results, which in instances have been nullified by the party.
Senior party officials such as political commissar Webster Shamu and party administration secretary Didymus Mutasa have come under fire from the grassroots for allegedly imposing candidates in the elections.
ZANU-PF chairman for Mashonaland East Ray Kaukonde has warned his colleagues that meddling in elections will only serve to weaken the party.
Spokesman Rugare Gumbo told VOA that ZANU-PF's supreme decision making body, the politburo, will next week meet to discuss the on-going clashes.
London-based political analyst Pedzisayi Ruhanya of Westminster University says the widening cracks and divisions in ZANU-PF are a direct result of Mr. Mugabe’s failure to deal with the succession on time.