Mutasa, a minister of state in Mugabe’s office, is said to have thrown his hat into the ring and was reportedly using his Manicaland base as a launch pad to succeed Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980.
Insiders said Mutasa was being encouraged by his hangers-on from Manicaland Province where he is revered as a “Godfather” in Zanu PF circles.
The sources said those touting Mutasa said he was seen as the most loyal from those vying to succeed Mugabe and hence was likely to ensure the safety of the ageing and ailing leader would be guaranteed.
The sources said Mutasa was spearheading the ouster from the Zanu PF provincial leadership of Mike Madiro, believed to be a protégé of Emerson Mnangagwa, another contender for the country’s top job.
A sequel of anti popular demonstrations calculated at ousting Madiro and his Mnangagwa – aligned provincial executive have hit Mutare and other parts of Manicaland in the past week.
Sources said Madiro was unlikely to survive the plot against him and his executive. They said he was likely to be replaced by an executive loyal to Mutasa.
“Mutasa wants to build a solid launch-pad from his province and Madiro will be an impediment because he is known to support Mnangagwa,” a source said.
In 2009 Mutasa shocked everyone in Zanu PF when he launched a bid to land the post of national chairman in the party but other Zanu PF provinces refused to support Mutasa’s candidacy on the grounds that the post of national chairman in Zanu PF was a preserve for politicians from the former PF Zapu.
As a result Simon Khaya Moyo, Zimbabwe’s ambassador to South Africa then, landed the powerful post ahead of Mutasa.
This prompted then Zanu PF Manicaland chairman Basil Nyabadza to resign in protest.
The sources said Mutasa’s ambitions to climb up the ladder were not dampened by the events of 2009.
The sources said although Vice Presidents Joice Mujuru or John Nkomo are seen as the best placed persons to take over given their positions in both government and Zanu PF internal dynamics in Zanu PF may deny them such an opportunity.
Mutasa has already moved in to block Mnangagwa’s possible ascendancy to the throne.
Last week he said it will be abnormal and not possible for the Defence minister to succeed Mugabe ahead of the party’s two vice presidents and national chairman.
Mutasa was refuting claims that Mugabe had reached a “gentleman’s agreement” with the Midlands “godfather” to hand over power to him if he managed to successfully campaign for the 88-year-old in the next presidential election.
“We have a hierarchy that we follow as a party, Mai Mujuru is better placed as well as John Nkomo or even SK Moyo, and those are the people who can take over today. But why are we talking about this when the President is still there?” Mutasa was quoted by The Daily News as saying.
The source said despite saying this, Mutasa was building his launch pad for the presidency.