The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) stirred up a hornet's nest when Giles Mutsekwa, its defence and security secretary, approached top military commanders loyal to President Robert Mugabe for talks to discuss a smooth transition of power after the elections should his party win.
Mutsekwa, who is also the government's housing minister and an MP in Mutare, was quoted by a local weekly last week confirming that he had held talks with senior Zimbabwe Defence Forces commanders, including General Constantine Chiwenga, a fierce Mugabe loyalist.
This triggered a political storm leading to angry denials and threats against Mutsekwa and journalists. According to Zanu-PF hardliners, Mutsekwa's discussions did not sit well with the party, hence the campaign to discredit him.
Mutsekwa, a former army major, fought in Mozambique during the turbulent Renamo insurgency, which fuelled the Mozambican civil war in the 1980s. Before that, he was a member of the Rhodesian army, a credential that is now being used to incriminate him.
An army major-general who asked not to be named said army commanders were also riled by Mutsekwa's publicising of the negotiations, which they felt was in bad faith.
"What is happening is that military commanders out of their own initiative gave him an opportunity to hear what he wanted to say, but they were annoyed when he went public about it," the major-general said. "They now think he is playing a political game or is seeking cheap publicity. As a result they are now on his case and that is why angry statements are being issued to warn him."
On Wednesday, police commissioner Augustine Chihuri issued veiled threats through state-controlled media attacking Mutsekwa and the media over security reform demands.
Chihuri, who is one of the people Mutsekwa allegedly met with, also said Morgan Tsvangirai's demands for the security sector to be reformed before polls would be resisted. Chihuri warned that those who claim to have met military commanders "run the risk of being arrested". He said security service chiefs would never meet "malcontents", whom he accused of engaging in "hollow political gimmicks".
"I wish to take this opportunity to warn liars and peddlers of falsehoods who dream of talking to us, to this general and to that general in their sleep, that the law will visit them harshly," he said.
"Some of us have no business talking to individuals of no substance whose sole purpose and agenda is to create confusion within the rank and file of the defence and security forces.
"I advise journalists to stop being used in this regard."
Asked for comment, presidential spokesperson George Charamba said it is "a major lie coming from [Mutsekwa]. The MDC is craving the attention of the commanders, which they will not get."