Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, described by his critics as the Machiavelli of Africa - skillfully playing one heir apparent off against another - has Thursday called for an emergency Politburo meeting to try and deescalate tensions in the ruling Zanu PF party.
Party insiders say Mr. Mugabe's attempts to use threats and repressive state apparatus to maintain control of the party have not worked and as a result he will again turn to diplomacy to address the widening rift between him and one of his vice presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is now being openly backed by a section of the war veterans.
Last week, Mr. Mugabe called for a rare press conference to apologize to some war veterans after their public demonstration to show support for Mnangagwa was violently disrupted by the anti-riot police.
Mr. Mugabe, according to critics, tried to isolate War Veterans Minister Chris Mutsvangwa from the war veterans but the freedom fighters vowed to back the under fire minister.
Some war veterans said their February 18th meeting was disrupted because some of them were openly protesting against Mr. Mugabe's increasingly powerful wife, Grace Mugabe, who is also the boss of the party's Women's League.
This after the first lady took a swipe at Mnangagwa castigating him for allegedly attempting to push Mr. Mugabe out and assume the presidency. Addressing supporters during his birthday bash at the weekend, Mr. Mugabe also warned "misguided party members" against attacking his wife calling it "very rude".
The secretary general of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association, Victor Matemadanda, said their crunch meeting scheduled for Thursday might be postponed to accommodate an emergency Zanu PF Politburo meeting.
Matemandada told VOA Studio 7 that there is a possibility that they might reschedule their meeting; “I have been told that there would be a Politburo meeting on Thursday so I advised my fellow comrades to sit and see if it’s possible that we continue on the that Thursday date or we postpone to Friday.”
Attempts to get a comment from Zanu PF spokesman, Simon Khaya Moyo, were futile as he was said to be in a cabinet meeting that dragged for long hours.
There are serious tensions between two bitter rivals, Team Lacoste supporting Mnangagwa and Generation 40 backed by the Young Turks and the first lady.
The two factions are battling to succeed President Mugabe who turned 92 on February 21st.
Tension escalated Tuesday after police sources reported that there was a yet another break-in at Mnangagwa’s New Government Complex offices Monday night. If the break-in is confirmed, it will be the fifth such attempt.
Defense Minister and Zanu-PF secretary for War Veterans, Sydney Sekeramayi, who was blamed by war veterans for deliberately misleading President Mugabe about their intention to hold a meeting in Harare urged the former fighters to be disciplined.
Sekeramayi is quoted in the state-controlled Herald newspaper as saying, “When the meeting is held, it should be in the spirit of what the president has advised, that is, it should be a meeting supporting the president, the party and our structures and with discipline.”
Last week, the president said he was not aware of the war veterans meeting and other ministers in the security sector —Sekeramayi, Kembo Mohadi (Security) and Ignatius Chombo (Home Affairs) — were also not briefed about the war veterans’ meeting.
But Matemadanda in an interview with VOA Studio 7 said he had personally met with Sekeramayi and briefed him about their intended peaceful demonstration.