Robert Mugabe has fired his vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, for showing traits of “disloyalty, disrespect and deceitfulness”.
The 75-year-old former intelligence chief had been one of the favourites to succeed the Zimbabwean President, having been appointed vice president in 2014.
But the pair are thought to have recently fallen out, with Mr Mugabe publicly rebuking him at a rally over the weekend.
Information minister Simon Khaya Moyo said Mr Mnangagwa had been “disloyal” and that his conduct in carrying out his duties was “inconsistent with the responsibilities”.
His removal will boost the presidential ambitions of Mr Mugabe’s wife Grace, 52, who told supporters at a stadium in the capital city of Harare on Sunday that she was ready to take over.
There has been a heated war of words between Mrs Mugabe and Mr Mnangagwa in recent months – with the ousted politician claiming he was poisoned after being airlifted to hospital in Johannesburg in August
He later told a news conference that doctors had concluded that poisoning was to blame for his illness, with Mrs Mugabe quick to deny any involvement.
She also made headlines in September thanks to a public spat with South African model Gabriella Engels, with Zimbabwe’s First Lady accused of attacking her with a knife.
Mr Mugabe, 93, has been president of Zimbabwe since 1987 and was prime minister for seven years before that.
He is the world’s oldest head of state and has insisted he will contest next year’s leadership election despite public calls from his wife to name his successor.