The Zanu-PF faction aligned with the late army general Solomon Mujuru is said to be courting the former finance minister and politburo member, who defected from the party in 2008 to run against President Robert Mugabe and Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
A Zanu-PF source said that the Mujuru grouping feels strategically outmanoeuvred by the faction led by Emmerson Mnangagwa, which has managed to lure leaders who left with Makoni, or who were suspended, back to the party.
Another Mnangagwa ally, Daniel Shumba, a former Zanu-PF Masvingo provincial chairperson, was readmitted to the party in 2010, despite having led an opposition grouping, the United People's Party.
The move to woo Makoni is part of a strategy to strengthen leadership of the Mujuru faction following Mujuru's mysterious death in a fire at his farmhouse in 2011, a source said.
"Many doubt that under [party vice-president] Joice Mujuru the faction can match the tactical sharpness of the Mnangagwa faction. She is not articulate on policy issues. It's the reason Makoni is being looked at," the source claimed.
"Makoni can come in as a strategist, working under Mujuru to give the faction some polish."
However, Makoni denied this week that he is talking to Zanu-PF about rejoining the party. His spokesperson, Joel Mapaura, said: "There is no truth in these reports. He has not been approached."
In a move that shook the party just before the 2008 elections, Makoni left Zanu-PF and formed the Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn (MKD) movement. The MKD fared badly in the presidential poll, managing to secure just 8.31% of the votes, compared with Mugabe's 43.24% and Tsvangirai's 47.87%.
MKD candidates, including the late Edgar Tekere, Margaret Dongo and former education minister Fay Chung, did not win a single parliamentary seat.
Zanu-PF has recently accepted top members of the MKD movement back into its ranks. Among them are former journalist Kindness Paradza, who returned to the party last month, and retired army major Kudzai Mbudzi, both alleged to be Mnangagwa supporters.
The sources said Makoni's suitors are being careful not to anger Mugabe, who is said to have been briefed about the overtures without necessarily endorsing them.
Opposition to Makoni
Some Zanu-PF leaders are also apparently resisting Makoni's return.
"People like Didymus Mutasa [the Zanu-PF secretary for administration] oppose Makoni's readmission. He feels [Makoni] could upset his possible rise to a higher position and challenge him as the party's godfather in Manicaland," said the source.
"Remember that they once fought after Makoni tried to oppose him in the Zanu-PF primaries some years back."
Key members of Makoni's MKD have deserted the party, notably Dumiso Dabengwa, who left in 2010 to revive Zapu.
A strategist for MKD, Ibbo Mandaza, also exited after disagreements with Makoni over the management of funds and donated vehicles.
Zanu-PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo said he was not aware of any overtures being made. "I've been on leave and I don't know about these talks with Makoni," he said.
Mutasa said Makoni would have to seek readmission to Zanu-PF personally.
"Those who returned pleaded to be readmitted; Makoni has not done that. But if he wants to rejoin the party, we will not just admit him like we did with the others. A mini-meeting to consider that would have to be held."
Mutasa declined to explain why such a "mini-meeting" with Makoni would be required.