Zanu-PF is on its deathbed - Nkala
Veteran nationalist Enos Nkala - fired from President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party in the late 1980s - has spoken about the state of the party for the first time.
Zanu-PF was formed in August 1962 at Nkala's Highfield house in Harare. In an interview with the Sunday Times this week, Nkala did not mince his words over the dilemma faced by Zanu-PF.
He effectively brushed aside any hopes that the former revolutionary party would be able to rebound and upset its main rival, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), in the looming election.
"Zanu-PF is lying on its deathbed and is taking its last breath and it will lose. It doesn't matter whether elections are held tomorrow, next month or next year, it will lose because the party has been overrun by people who have lost the founding values and principles out of which it was formed.
"The party is now being run by opportunists and has lost its original makers. When Mugabe goes it will die with him."
In an interview with state-owned media on the eve of his 88th birthday in February, Mugabe echoed similar sentiments that he would not step down for fear that Zanu-PF would fall apart without him - even as he ratcheted up this fear as a defence against appointing a successor.
Now the Sunday Times has also learnt of secret efforts by Mugabe to court Nkala's help to win the election - especially in the three Matabeleland provinces, which have become an achilles heel for Zanu-PF since 2000.
High-level Zanu-PF members involved in brokering the secret dialogue between Mugabe and Nkala revealed to the Sunday Times that Mugabe had intended to use the occasion of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in Bulawayo to meet Nkala to discuss, among other things, the issue of Matabeleland, which has been overrun by the MDC.
Asked if he knew of the proposed meeting, Nkala said, "Yes, Mugabe may want me to tell him how to win back Matabeleland. I believe that's what he wants me to tell him. After all, Zanu-PF has fared terribly in Matabeleland in the past 10 years".
It is understood that Mugabe's plans to see Nkala were however "scuttled at the last minute" by the visiting Zambian President Michael Sata, who insisted on travelling to Harare immediately after the trade fair.
Mugabe is said to have recently again dispatched a message to Nkala through Cephas Msipa, a Zanu-PF Politburo member and the former Midlands governor, and promised to "come home (Nkala's Woodlands house) and 'eat sadza' with him".
Publicly however, Mugabe and Nkala, who were detained together by the Ian Smith government for 10 years in the Gonakudzingwa detention camp, have maintained a cat and mouse relationship and have given the impression of never seeing eye to eye.
The 80-year-old Nkala refuted the impression of sworn enmity between Mugabe and himself, and said it was a creation of the media.
"We are both old and are looking at the grave, and we really have no time to be holding grudges. That's not for us; we both have mutual respect for each other. Most of our comrades have passed on and we are just the last who are left of our generation, and at any given chance we deeply enjoy each other's company and the chance to reflect on life," said Nkala.