Tsvangirai beat Mugabe in the first round of an election in 2008 only to pull out of the second round because of violence.
Mnangagwa, according to people in his camp and Western diplomats, sees in Tsvangirai a politician who can deliver broad public support to complement his own connections with powerful political and military interests.
Mnangagwa and the Ministry of Media did not respond to requests for comment.
Mnangagwa’s supporter Christopher Mutsvangwa heads the Liberation War Veterans Association, whose members include veterans who expelled the white farmers nearly two decades ago.
He told Reuters that Tsvangirai could have a role in government if Mnangagwa became president.
“Why can’t there be an accommodation with Tsvangirai?” the 62-year-old Mutsvangwa said in an interview in Harare, in answer to a question about whether there could be a coalition government led by Mnangagwa and Tsvangirai.
He said a partnership would be unifying in a country with deep political divides.
“If they decide to coalesce that’s good because they represent solid historical constituencies.”
According to the intelligence reports, Mutsvangwa is a middleman between various parties involved in a possible coalition government.
“Mutsvangwa is more than prepared to make sure that Mnangagwa and Tsvangirai strike up a coalition. He says that the country needs no election at this stage, just a change of leadership and structure of government,” a Feb. 22 intelligence report says.
When asked about the deal described in the intelligence documents, Mutsvangwa said elections must be held in line with the constitution and that an elite could not rule “bereft of popular legitimacy”.
He said it was his duty to work with all political sides, and that he had “reached out” to Tsvangirai and the “post-colonial white diaspora”.
He added that as chairman of the war veterans he wanted to ensure a “peer comrade” takes over from Mugabe and that Mnangagwa could naturally aspire to the highest office.
In a statement in 2016 the war veterans, many of whom are now nearing retirement, accused Mugabe of being “ideologically bankrupt” and ignoring the plight of Zimbabwe’s masses as the economy imploded.
Mutsvangwa said his only aim is rebuilding the economy and country.
For Tsvangirai, a deal with Mnangagwa may be the best shot at the power he has craved for decades.
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