HARARE – A close ally of former Vice President Joice Mujuru says the popular 60-year-old widow of the late liberation struggle icon, General Solomon Mujuru, will challenge President Robert Mugabe or whoever will represent the post-congress Zanu PF in the much-anticipated 2018 presidential elections.

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mujuruThe spokesperson of disaffected Zanu PF stalwarts, who now operate as the “original” Zanu PF using the slogan People First, Rugare Gumbo, said yesterday that there was no doubt that Mujuru would be up for the challenge if members decided to make her the substantive leader and presidential candidate of the party.

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Gumbo spoke as opposition leaders are making serious efforts to come together in a grand coalition that includes MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai, MKD leader Simba Makoni, Zapu president Dumiso Dabengwa and Mujuru, which will take on Mugabe and the ruling party in 2018.

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“If congress is held and she is elected president then yes, she will contest in the 2018 election. Ultimately, the people will decide, but certainly she is a front runner as we speak,” Gumbo told the Daily News.

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The outspoken Gumbo, who was banished from the post-congress Zanu PF together with Mujuru and former Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa over untested allegations of plotting to oust and kill Mugabe, also insisted yesterday that the 2014 Zanu PF congress which ushered in a new leadership was unconstitutional and therefore void.

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He said this was the reason why his group was sticking with the “original” Zanu PF, adding that Mujuru, who was for many years tipped to be Mugabe’s successor, was “a political giant” to the extent that she would “shake the post-congress Zanu PF to its core”.

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“She is committed to fulfilling people’s dreams to ensure that Zimbabwe is properly ruled, and that there is peace and tranquillity in the country. She is the first woman to be elected vice president and it’s just a matter of time before she gets to the top,” Gumbo said.

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He indicated that Zanu PF “People First” was in the process of building structures at grassroots level, as there were many disgruntled members dotted across the country who were itching to start working for the party.

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“People are being fired and suspended and are being denied the chance to contest in by-elections. We are saying that we are the original Zanu PF and we use People First as our slogan. We stand for democracy, justice, freedom of speech, full participation and respect of the Constitution,” he added.

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His remarks also came as the factional and succession wars in the post-congress Zanu PF are escalating, amid talk that up to 100 of its senior members and legislators perceived to be loyal to Mujuru face the axe.

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In Harare East, Terence Mukupe — who defeated former Zifa women football boss Mavis Gumbo during the party’s primary elections but was disqualified because he does not meet the party requirements — has taken his fight to court.

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The former banker told High Court judge Chinembiri Bhunu last week that the rejection of his nomination papers was illegal, malicious and should thus be set aside.

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Mukupe is believed to belong to an ambitious group of Young Turks within Zanu PF known as the Generation 40, while his opponent, Mavis Gumbo, is said to belong to the dominant faction that supports Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

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In Masvingo, the axe is also said to be hanging over party heavyweights Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, Dzikamai Mavhaire, Calisto Gwanetsa and retired Colonel Claudius Makova.

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A storm is also brewing between secretary for administration Ignatius Chombo and political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere over the Harare East by-election, with the two bigwigs caught in opposite camps.

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Tourism minister, Walter Mzembi, who by Mugabe’s own admission, is one of the government’s best-performing Cabinet ministers, is also said to be on the ropes as political vultures are said to be after his head.

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Gumbo’s remarks also come at a time when pro-Mujuru party members are having their farms invaded and taken over by hardliners.