The wife of Zimbabwe’s 92-year-old President Robert Mugabe says he should run “as a corpse” in next year’s election if he dies before the vote.
Grace Mugabe accused some ruling Zanu-PF party officials of plotting to take over from her husband and said that even if he dies, supporters should put his name on the ballot to show their love for him.
The president, who will turn 93 on Tuesday, has slowed down on public engagements while his 51-year-old wife has become increasingly visible in politics.
Mugabe has been in power since white minority rule ended in Zimbabwe in 1980 after years of war.
A big celebration is planned in Zimbabwe on February 25, a few days after his birthday.
Ms Mugabe addressed thousands of cheering supporters at a rally in Buhera, saying: “If God decides to take him, then we would rather field him as a corpse.”
Speaking in the local Shona language, she warned associates of Mugabe from the era of guerrilla war against white rule that they cannot take power because they are also old.
“Anyone who was with Mugabe in 1980 has no right to tell him he is old. If you want Mugabe to go, then you leave together. You also have to leave. Then we take over because we were not there in 1980,” she said, pointing to herself.
She has professed fierce loyalty to her husband, previously saying she would get him a wheelchair if necessary and push it for him so that he could continue to rule.
Mugabe has said he wants to live until 100 and rule for life, and has complained about ruling party factions jostling for influence as a succession battle looms.