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By Torby Chimhashu

A FORMER senior army officer running Simba Makoni’s presidential bid has warned Zimbabwe's intelligence services against “overzealous reaction” to the former finance minister's dramatic pitch for political office.

Retired Major Kudzai Mbudzi told journalists in Harare on Tuesday that he expected retribution from President Robert Mugabe’s notorious spy agency which has gained world infamy for using unorthodox tactics against his opponents.

Mjr Mbudzi said: “We expect overzealous reaction from the intelligence. They must be warned that we were also part of the intelligence and we won’t tolerate that. We warn them that they would be dealt with accordingly in their individual capacity.

“This is a rescue operation (having Makoni challenging Mugabe). Zimbabwe is at the boil. Simba has offered his services to the people of Zimbabwe and would want to turn around the situation which has degenerated into a sense of decay,” Mbudzi said moments after Makoni had officially announced his decision to fight Mugabe in the March 29 elections.

The former finance minister who two days earlier had been barred from contesting in the Zanu PF primary elections in Makoni Central, Manicaland Province, said he would challenge Mugabe as an independent.

Mbudzi said they would not launch a party and were comfortable with the name Zanu PF since “the constitution is fortunately silent on the use of symbols and names".

The former military man said Makoni consulted widely and had the backing of 90% of key people in the party. Makoni is thought to be close to Vice President Joice Mujuru and former home affairs minister, Dumiso Dabengwa.

“We are confident of winning the election. Simba will not field candidates except himself. This is our new concept of participating in elections. He will form a government of national unity and heal the country,” Mjr Mbudzi said.

Analysts said the decision by Makoni to fight Mugabe was tantamount to a palace coup on the soon-to-be 84 veteran leader.

“There is nothing wrong with what Simba has done. This is free country and he is free to challenge Mugabe. What this shows is that Zanu PF is now split,” said John Makumbe, a political analyst.

Makoni appeared to have sold Mugabe a decoy when he met the former guerrilla leader and assured him of his backing two weeks ago.

Mugabe in turn gave the nod to him to submit his CV for the Makoni Central primary elections where he was pitted against Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa.

But there was a always a chance of a sting in the tail as the Zanu PF leadership disqualified Makoni at the last minute, arguing he had submitted his papers late, prompting the dramatic announcement Tuesday.

“There is no way Makoni will be used by the intelligence to split votes. This is not time for playing games. This is a serious operation aimed at reclaiming Zimbabwe. Forget about this belief that this is an intelligence project,” Mbudzi said.

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