Harare - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's nephew Patrick Zhuwao has accused Vice President Emmerson Mangangwa of intimidating the ruling party's members in his campaign to succeed the nonagenarian leader.
Mnangagwa reportedly leads a faction within Zanu-PF called Team Lacoste while another camp made up of young Turks angling to succeed Mugabe called Generation 40 (G40) is reportedly led by First Lady Grace Mugabe.
Zhuwao, who is Zimbabwe's youth and indigenisation minister and aligned to G40, claimed that Mnangagwa was using a group of veterans of the country's liberation war disgruntled with Mugabe's leadership style and long rule to force party members to support his presidential bid.
A group of former freedom fighters led by former war veterans minister Christopher Mutsvangwa were recently arraigned before a Harare magistrate after they released a damning communique in which they declared that they would not campaign for Mugabe in the 2018 presidential elections. They argued that the candidature of the Zimbabwean strongman - who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980 - was a hard-sale to the country's electorate that is facing grinding poverty.
"They (war veterans) said that he (Mnangagwa) must succeed the president and if he does not, there will be blood on the floor," Zhuwao told the local weekly Standard newspaper.
"That alone is a blow to the vice president and as a Zanu PF member, I must not be intimidated to support the VP, but must be allowed to do it freely."
Zhuwao said he was worried that the lives of Zimbabweans would be at risk if Mnangagwa was to become president of the southern African country. With a leader such as Mnangagwa, Zhuwao said he feared that most people in the country would be "wiped out".
"So when you threaten me, I will definitely look at at his (Mnangagwa's) envisaged government that if people oppose him he would kill them, and that to me is damaging. People must be allowed to make choices without being intimidated with death or war, like what the so-called supporters of VP Mnangagwa are doing."
Meanwhile, Mnangagwa switched off his mobile phone when News24 contacted him for comment.
He was on record saying he did not lead any camp within the ruling party. Mnangagwa, who was Zimbabwe's minister of state security when Mugabe's government committed atrocities in the southern African country's Midlands and Matabeleland provinces in the 1980s, was quoted by the local media recently saying that he did not harbour any presidential ambitions.
While Mugabe's succession question raged on, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said Zhuwao's remarks were a diversionary tactic being used by Mugabe in pursuance of his "divide-and-rule politics".
"Anyone in Zanu-PF who dreams that he or she will succeed Mugabe as the leader of that party has to be content with the fact that this will only happen when Mugabe is physically no longer in existence," said MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu.
"Both factions in Zanu-PF know that Mugabe is the Ayatollah, the supreme leader. He will only be succeeded beyond the grave and anything beyond that would be puerile day-dreaming," added Gutu.
Political analyst Memory Kadau told News24 that Zhuwao should not be surprised by violence and intimidation allegedly being fermented by Mnangagwa is his succession campaign, arguing that violence and intimidation had always been part of Zanu-PF's politics.
"Zimbabweans are eager to see a transfer of power using democratic means and critical to this transition should be the finality it brings to the state legitimacy question and that state legitimacy will not be achieved by executive appointments to the presidium but through a legitimate, free and fair electoral process," said Kadau.