Mugabe last week made a stunning summersault on the nomination of Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to South Africa Simon Khaya Moyo by the majority of Zanu PF provinces after his lieutenants challenged the selection process.
Current Zanu PF chairman Didymus Mutasa has also been protesting publicly about the alleged flouting of procedures for the nomination, which he said favoured PF Zapu people.
The latest developments mean Mutasa and Mnangagwa have been thrown a life line to launch fresh bids for the chairmanship.
Speaking in Manicaland last week Mugabe said it was only the post of Vice-President won by John Nkomo that had been settled.
His statements contradicted pronouncements by senior Zanu PF officials such as Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, Angeline Masuku and Richard Ndlovu who have taken issue with Mutasa for trying to seek nomination for a post they say must be reserved for former PF Zapu members.
The say it is an unwritten rule from the 1987 Unity Accord that two posts in the presidium should always be reserved for former PF Zapu.
"When we discussed the issue of candidates to fill in the post left vacant by the late Cde (Joseph) Msika we urged the Matabeleland region to hold consultations and nominate a candidate who would be presented to the provinces," Mugabe was quoted as saying by the state media.
"This was duly done with the nomination of Cde Nkomo as Vice-President of the party.
"We are surprised that some people rushed to make announcements in the media."
Moyo was chosen by a caucus of former PF Zapu leaders who met before the nominations that had a record number of contestants.
Mugabe said Manicaland was free to lobby for its candidate ahead of the congress, in what was seen as an open endorsement of Mutasa.
However, several Zanu PF officials who spoke to The Standard yesterday said they were waiting for Mugabe to repeat his statements at a politburo meeting scheduled for tomorrow.
The matter was deferred from last week’s politburo meeting because Richard Ndlovu, the deputy commissar was in Namibia.
"I don’t see the matter being resolved at the politburo meeting and we are sharpening our knives for the congress because it appears they want to call for nominations from the floor, something which is unprecedented.
"Just call me after the politburo meeting on Monday and you will get the best story ever written about Zanu PF."
The official said Mnangagwa was now the favourite to land the chairmanship, which might come as a consolation after his faction was trounced by the rival Mujuru faction during the nominations.
"If they say Moyo was not nominated procedurally then we will have to mobilize Matabeleland provinces to revise their endorsement of Mugabe for the presidency," said another official.
Mugabe was nominated by all the other provinces unopposed while his deputy Joice Mujuru was initially rejected by Masvingo province, which chose Women’s League boss, Opphah Muchinguri.
However, Masvingo was forced to reverse the nomination after Mujuru won in other provinces.
There are reports Muchinguri has not abandoned her bid and might surprise Mujuru at the congress by seeking nominations from the floor.
Zanu PF is already weakened in Matabeleland after former politburo member Dumiso Dabengwa led several senior party members to revive Zapu. The Zimbabwe Standard