Cape Town — Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu-PF party has axed President Robert Mugabe as leader and first secretary of the party, reports NewsDay from Harare.
This clears the way for Mugabe either to step down voluntarily or for Parliament to vote to remove him as president of the country.
The newspaper's website said the party's Central Committee took the decision to remove Mugabe. The committee also reinstated Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was dismissed from his party role as second secretary 11 days ago.
Mnangagwa's removal followed two days after Mugabe had fired him as the country's vice-president. This came after an incident in which Mugabe's wife, Grace, was booed by part of the crowd at a rally in Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo.
Mnangagwa, backed by Zimbabwe's army -- many of the top leaders of which served him and Mugabe in the country's liberation war in the 1970s -- have thus turned the tables on Mugabe.
Reports dating back to a Reuters news agency special report, published in September, suggest that Mnangagwa has long been planning for Mugabe's eventual departure.
Reuters said that "according to politicians, diplomats and a trove of hundreds of documents from inside Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organization reviewed by Reuters, Mnangagwa and other political players have been positioning themselves for the day Mugabe either steps down or dies."
The agency report suggested that Mnangagwa may bring opposition leader, and former Prime Minister in a coalition government, Morgan Tsvangirai, into government.
Reuters reported that "the documents and sources say Mnangagwa... envisages cooperating with Tsvangirai to lead a transitional government for five years with the tacit backing of some of Zimbabwe’s military and Britain.
"These sources leave open the possibility that the government could be unelected. The aim would be to avoid the chaos that has followed some previous elections."