President Mugabe and the First Lady Grace Mugabe bid farewell to Vice Presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko (file photo).
A former Central Intelligence Organisation operative who tried to spearhead a Zanu PF splinter party over a decade ago claims Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa was not involved in the project.
A fortnight ago Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo told the Zanu PF politburo that Mnangagwa was behind the failed United People's Movement (UPM).
Moyo said the VP sponsored him and other independent candidates as well as UPM to topple President Robert Mugabe.
But Pearson Mbalekwa, a nephew of Mnangagwa, said although disgruntled Zanu PF members sympathetic to Mnangagwa formed UPM in 2004, the VP was not involved.
Mbalekwa was responding to claims by Moyo that Mnangagwa had not been loyal to Mugabe all his life because he formed the UPM to challenge Mugabe in the aftermath of the botched Tsholotsho debacle.
Moyo made the disclosures in the last politburo meeting where he claimed he and other members met at Mbalekwa and Mnangagwa's strategist July Moyo's farms to launch a party to fight Mugabe.
He claimed Mnangagwa was the leader of the party that came after he also sponsored Moyo to run as an independent Tsholotsho MP to "test the waters" against Mugabe's advice.
The former spy agent said he was actively involved in the planning stages of UPM after some disgruntled members of the ruling party were not happy with the side-lining of Mnangagwa from the vice presidency at the December 2004 Zanu PF congress where former deputy president Joice Mujuru was Mugabe's preferred candidate.
"Indeed, it is true that some disgruntled members of Zanu PF were not happy with the outcome of the December 2004 congress in that they felt their preferred candidate for the post of vice president, Honourable Mnangagwa had been unfairly blocked from ascending to that prestigious post," Mbalekwa said.
He said the amendment of the party constitution and the shifting of goal posts by three provinces to cater for a female vice-president was viewed by Mnangagwa's supporters as political coercion.
Mbalekwa said those who supported Mnangagwa wanted him to be deputy together with the late Thenjiwe Lesabe as the co-vice president.
"Some people felt the need to leave Zanu PF and form a political party which would fulfil their political desires," he said.
"The aim was never to topple President Mugabe as the Zanu PF leader and replace him with Mnangagwa. The aim was to make Mnangagwa President Mugabe's deputy and this was not his initiative but that of people like me and many others who felt Mnangagwa was most suitable for the post.
"Honourable Mnangagwa never at any one time encouraged or persuaded anyone to challenge President Mugabe, neither did he ever want the post of vice president or president but it was the supporters who were pushing for his nomination."
Mbalekwa, once MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai's security advisor, said Mnangagwa never intended to use Moyo's standing as an independent candidate in Tsholotsho as a rallying point against Mugabe.
The former Zvishavane legislator denied ever discussing with an American diplomat about Mnangagwa's involvement with UPM as exposed by WikiLeaks.
He said at the height of tensions in the ruling party, he once suggested to Mnangagwa to leave the party but he (Mnangagwa) turned down the suggestion, saying he could not leave his colleagues to form another party.
"Honourable Mnangagwa's loyalty to Zanu PF and President Mugabe saved the party from a mega split in 2004 as many people were ready to leave the party if he had decided to listen to any disgruntled people at the time," he said.
Contacted for comment, Masvingo Urban MP who was the face of UPM, Daniel Shumba, said he was in a series of political meetings and promised to respond later. Former Cabinet minister and Mnangagwa's confidant, July Moyo, who was also mentioned in the Higher and Tertiary Education minister's report, was not reachable yesterday.