VICE-President John Nkomo, who has been ill for some time and missed important party and national events last year, including the ZANU-PF conference in Gweru, is not able to come back to work anytime soon as he is in South Africa undergoing chemotherapy.
His brother, Samuel Sipepa Nkomo told The Financial Gazette this week that VP Nkomo, whose condition sources say is serious, is undergoing treatment in Cape Town but is not hospitalised.
"No, he is not in hospital. He is undergoing chemo (chemotherapy) from home but his condition has really improved," said Sipepa Nkomo in a telephone interview.
VP Nkomo revealed in 2009 that he had been diagnosed with cancer and has been on sick leave for the last four months.
Nkomo, who has been in and out of hospital, and regularly flies to South Africa for treatment, has had to constantly deny rumours of his death. In 2011, similar rumours did the rounds only for him to scoff at them at a rally in Matabeleland.
Some news websites claimed last December that the ailing VP Nkomo had died only to issue rebuttals the following day as his family confirmed he was alive but unwell.
Although Sipepa Nkomo denied any knowledge of plans by the VP to resign due to his poor health, there is a fierce succession fight pitting ZANU-PF heavyweights in Matabeleland region against each other.
"The family can't make that decision for him. It is for him and the party (ZANU-PF) to decide. If he wants to continue, the family will support him," said Sipepa Nkomo upon being probed whether the family wanted the VP to quit active politics.
While party chairperson Simon Khaya- Moyo is seen as the favourite to succeed Nkomo if he retires due to ill health, sources say Mines Minister Obert Mpofu, who is known for calling himself President Robert Mugabe's ever obedient son, is also interested in the post and is flaunting his wealth in Matabeleland to position himself.
Mpofu enjoys grassroots support in Matabeleland North and Bulawayo where he has used his resources to build a solid support base and endear himself with the electorate.
Provincial elections in Bulawayo and Matabeleland North have confirmed Mpofu's dominance after his allies swept to power.
In Matabeleland North, former ZANU-PF District Coordinating Committee chairperson for Umguza, Richard Moyo, who is close to Mpofu, won the provincial chairmanship by a crushing margin after defeating Khaya-Moyo aligned Patrick Utete by 6 689 votes to 674.
In Bulawayo, another Mpofu ally, Killian Sibanda also won the elections, putting the two provinces under the minister's control.