Matabeleland has over recent years been labelled a political hotbed due to long-running political clashes among Zanu PF heavyweights over control of the region.
Both MDC formations and Zapu have joined in the fray in a bid to claim a stake in the hugely disgruntled electorate which has endured years of unfulfilled promises since independence in 1980.
The Zanu PF intra-party clashes came to the fore in Matabeleland North last December when acting provincial chairperson Zwelitsha Masuku was suspended for alleged incompetence and was replaced by former chairperson Headman Moyo who in turn was also dropped two weeks ago over similar charges.
Moyo was replaced by Matabeleland North governor Sithokozile Mathuthu.
Party insiders said Masuku, who replaced Zenzo Ncube who was also fired by Mines minister Obert Mpofu, was the minister’s blue-eyed boy.
Zanu PF chairman Simon Khaya Moyo allegedly orchestrated the sacking of Masuku as the fight for control of the region escalated.
Political observers say the fight was likely to reach fever-pitch as elections draw closer, but all the squabbling was a clear reflection of a muffled succession debate stirred by President Robert Mugabe.
The factional wars escalated in Bulawayo last week where Zanu PF provincial chairman Isaac Dakamela was ousted on Sunday by a provincial coordinating committee meeting.
His sacking followed a week of fights between Dakamela and regional heavyweights including Matabeleland South governor Angeline Masuku, politburo members Absolom Sikhosana, Joshua Malinga and Eunice Sandi-Moyo over the selection of special councillors.
Dakamela is also said to be closely linked to Mpofu, but former Information minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu fought in his corner, nullifying the suspension.
Political analyst Pedzisai Ruhanya said the confusion in the Matabeleland provinces was a reflection of the rampant infighting in Zanu PF along factional allegiances.
He argued that the ongoing battle for Matabeleland by regional heavyweights was not about them, but their factions at the national level.
Ruhanya said unless Zanu PF addresses decisively its national leadership succession intrigue by tackling Mugabe and “his cabal’s sunset leadership, the factional wars would stalk the party to its imminent political grave”.
“Relative to the specific provincial squabbles, it is a clear sign that Zanu PF will lose more voters and seats in that divided scenario,” he said.
“The call for elections by Jonathan Moyo and company could be the call for political retirement for him and others if the polls were to take place under that confusion.
“These squabbles are all over the place in Zanu PF provinces,” he said.
Zanu PF is deeply divided between factions led by the wealthy politicians, Defence minister Emerson Mnangagwa and Vice-President Joice Mujuru who are leading the race to succeed Mugabe.
The President has, however, indicated that he is ready to seek re-election for another term in the next polls expected later this year or early next year.
Political analyst Dewa Mavhinga concurred with Ruhanya that the Matabeleland suspensions pointed to a full-scale war within Zanu PF and to desperate attempts by the party long rejected by the people of Matabeleland, and of Zimbabwe, to win back support.
He said the problem with Zanu PF was not the individuals put forward for leadership, but its insensitivity to the plight of ordinary Zimbabweans.
Mavhinga noted that since 1980, the people of Matabeleland had been fed on empty promises about the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project and several other projects that would have cured the perennial water woes for the region.