Former President Robert Mugabe so terrified Zanu PF supporters that most only publicly backed him out of fear for their very lives, the ruling party's national chairperson has claimed.
The long-time Zimbabwean strongman was toppled by popular military coup last November, ending what critics describe as a disastrous 37-year reign.
Before his inglorious exit from power, Mugabe - now 94 - had been endorsed as the ruling party's presidential candidate for this year's elections.
He appeared to be adored by Zanu PF supporters with tens of thousands thronging rallies he addressed countrywide ahead of the coup.
Not quite though, says party chair Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri who is also a cabinet minister.
"Takanyeba kuti vaMugabe vadzoke. Tanga tisisade; taitya, (we only endorsed Mugabe as our candidate because of fear for our lives.
"Endorsing a person (Mugabe) who is 94 years, that was a joke," said the Climate, Water and Environment Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri.
She was addressing a ruling party Women's Assembly meeting in Harare Thursday.
Mugabe's wife Grace is widely seen to have forced the military intervention which toppled the veteran leader.
Increasingly influential as her husband wilted due to age, the former first lady was thought to have her designs on the presidency.
With the backing of a cohort of cabinet ministers determined to stop then vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa succeeding Mugabe, Grace was widely seen as having effectively taken over the running of government.
"Mugabe was no longer in control, his wife 'Dr Stop It' (Grace) was in charge of everything both party and government," said Muchinguri-Kashiri.
"I was forced to surrender the (Women's League) post to her (Grace) and did so not because I wanted to, but I was afraid and feared for my life."
She commended current first lady Auxillia Mnangagwa, describing her as an exemplary and hardworking woman.
"Our mother is a humble person," she said.
"We asked and pleaded with her to take a seat here at the front row, but she turned that down saying she wanted to sit among other women.
"If it was 'Dr Stop It' (Grace) she would have rushed here, but our mother Auxillia is a different person and wants to uplift women.
"Look at the countrywide cancer and other charitable programmes which she is doing for women and children."