President Emmerson Mnangagwa wielded the axe on Energy minister Fortune Chasi over a litany of issues that were allegedly causing a strain between them including factionalism in the ruling party, it has emerged.
Chasi, who was one of the most popular ministers in Mnangagwa's Cabinet, is also said to have been deemed a threat to the first family's interests.The Zanu-PF leader announced the shock removal of the former Justice and Transport deputy minister from government on Friday.
According to a statement by chief secretary to the President and Cabinet Misheck Sibanda, Chasi's "conduct of government business had become incompatible with the president's expectations."
He was replaced by the little-known Soda Zhemu, the Zanu-PF MP for Muzarabani in Mashonaland Central province.
Insiders said a Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) report on the chaos at Zesa would be used as an excuse for Chasi's sacking, but the issues were much deeper.
A week ago, Mnangagwa ordered Zacc to investigate Zesa after suspending the power utility's executive chairman Sydney Gata and the entire board.Insiders now say the Zesa issue was a decoy and Gata would be used to implicate Chasi in alleged shady deals.Insiders said the real issues were that Chasi was being targeted because of suspicions that he had ambitions for higher office.
They said the Mazowe South MP was viewed as an ally of Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga and that he was one of those allegedly plotting against Mnangagwa."There is suspicion that the Chiwenga faction considered Chasi as presidential material and in the event the army takes over from Mnangagwa, he could be the new face of Zanu-PF," the source said.
"Others also considered him a G40 person because he was receiving praise from exiled former G40 hawks."A fortnight ago, Mnangagwa and Chiwenga allegedly clashed during a politburo meeting where evidence was allegedly produced that a faction linked to the vicepresident was plotting against the president.
A politburo member Cleveria Chizema was suspended after posters allegedly promoting the July 31 protests by opposition groups were found at her Harare home.
Chizema was accused of being part of Zanu-PF people that allegedly wanted to use the protests to push for Chiwenga to take over from Mnangagwa.
Zanu-PF sources said Chasi's sacking was to some extent part of a continuation of a purge that will target those suspected to be involved in the alleged plot.
The Mnangagwa family is also said to have played a big role in the minister's unceremonious exit.
"Chasi was caught in the crossfire, he has been a victim of family politics and factionalism in Zanu-PF," the source said.
"Chasi failed to read the politics."Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa yesterday refused to comment on Chasi's dismissal and allegations that Mnangagwa's family had a role in the minister's sacking.
"How do I comment on a decision by my principal? You heard it," Mutsvangwa said.
"It is factual and clear that he was relieved of his duties.
"I am not the one who appointed him so the person, who appointed him relieved him of his duties."
Factionalism is said to be resurfacing in Zanu-PF over Chiwenga's alleged ambitions to take over from Mnangagwa ahead of the 2023 elections.