Former Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa has claimed President Robert Mugabe once threatened to physically assault him for refusing to dump former Vice-President Joice Mujuru at the height of the political fallout between the Zanu PF strongman and his ex-deputy.

He said the incident happened in 2014 shortly before Mujuru and other top Zanu PF officials were hounded out of the ruling party on allegations of plotting to assassinate Mugabe.

Mujuru and her sympathisers later regrouped and founded the opposition Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF) party.

Addressing a ZimPF campaign rally in Mt Darwin on Saturday, Mutasa said: “I used to get on very well with Mugabe, very, very well. But first, Mugabe called us for a meeting saying there were some youths, who had some concerns.

“That was the meeting at which youths openly accused Mujuru of plotting to kill the President. They said a lot of unfounded things, accusing her of using witchcraft in a bid to dethrone Mugabe.”

Mutasa said the meeting was held before Mugabe’s wife, First Lady Grace Mugabe, went on the nationwide “meet the people” tours, which she used to attack Mujuru.

“After that meeting, Mugabe then called me and we had a two-hour meeting before the politburo. In the meeting, he asked me why I supported Mujuru. I told him that I supported her because she was his deputy,” he said.

“He told me that she was a witch, using Nigerian sangomas (witchdoctors) and water beetles to try to kill him and take over the Presidency and, therefore, I should dump her. I told him I could not do that because she hadn’t done anything wrong to me. He was angry and threatened me, ‘Do you know that I can beat you up?’

“I asked him the reason why he wanted to beat me up, but he repeated the words, emphasising that he would physically assault me if I continued supporting her.

“I then asked him if there was need for fighting over the matter, but he repeated the words again.”

Mutasa said he defended Mujuru, saying she never wanted to wrest power from Mugabe, claiming the former Vice-President was a victim of Zanu PF factional fights.

Speaking at the same event, ZimPF national membership co-ordinator, Dzikamai Mavahire said: “If his (Mugabe’s) claims about Mujuru were true, she could have been languishing in prison now. But because it was all falsehoods by an old man, she is here today to meet you.”