Delegates celebrate after Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe was dismissed as party leader at an extraordinary meeting of the ruling Zanu-PF's central committee in Harare on Sunday. Photo: Reuters

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has been formally dismissed as the leader of the country's ruling party, Zanu-PF, and replaced by the vice-president he previously sacked, Emmerson 'Crocodile' Mnangagwa.

It followed all 10 Zimbabwean provinces passing no-confidence motions against the dictator on Friday. Although Mugabe technically remains president, the fact that he no longer leads his party means that the end is almost certainly in sight for his 37-year reign. 

The development placed Mr Mnangagwa within touching distance of the presidency, delayed only by Mr Mugabe's continued refusal to step down.

There is widespread speculation that Mugabe will officially resign late on Sunday after a crunch meeting with the head of Zimbabwe's armed forces.

He has so far given little sign of capitulating, however, instead resisting the massive pressure from all sides by staging a hunger strike, making threats and refusing to speak at his Blue Roof home.   

The dictator's hated wife, 'Gucci' Grace, has also been expelled from her role as head of the Zanu-PF Women's League 'forever'. 

Mugabe must resign as president by noon local time on Monday or impeachment proceedings will start, Zanu-PF said on Sunday. 

If he resigns, Mugabe could live as an 'elder statesman' in Zimbabwe, or travel to a country where he has property, including South Africa, Dubai or Singapore. 

While Mugabe has been removed from his role of Zanu-PF party leader, his title as Zimbabwean president remains.

Impeaching the president is the next step when Parliament resumes Tuesday, and lawmakers will 'definitely' put the process in motion, the main opposition's parliamentary chief whip told The Associated Press. 

Mnangagwa, the former state security chief, is in line to head an interim post-Mugabe unity government that will focus on rebuilding ties with the outside world and stabilising an economy in freefall. 

News of Mugabe's removal comes as MailOnline exclusively revealed that the elderly dictator had gone on hunger strike. One of his close family members confirmed that he was refusing to eat as a strategic ploy.

The frail 93-year-old Mugabe has not accepted any food since Saturday, the source revealed, as he continues to be held under house arrest at his Blue Roof mansion. 

Mugabe's nephew Patrick Zhuwao said on Saturday that Mr Mugabe was 'willing to die for what is correct'. 

A Zanu-PF minister confirmed to MailOnline that Mr Mugabe is also refusing to speak as part of his days-long protest.

'The old man has been trying a lot of various tricks since last night,' the minister, who asked not to be named, said. 'Hunger strikes, making threats and refusing to talk.'  

Mugabe on Sunday is set to discuss his exit with army commander Constantino Chiwenga, who put him under the house arrest.

Leader of Zimbabwe's war veterans association Christopher Mutsvangwa said Mugabe should just resign from his role as president and leave the country.   

'We are going all the way,' Mutsvangwa, who has led the campaign to oust Zimbabwe's ruler of the last 37 years, said 'He's trying to bargain for a dignified exit but he should just smell the coffee.'

A day after huge crowds rallied peacefully in Harare for the 93-year-old Mugabe to go, members of Zanu-PF's Central Committee stood, cheered and began to sing as the process of recalling Mugabe began. Meeting chair Obert Mpofu referred to Mugabe as 'outgoing president'. 

The meeting also was replacing Mugabe as party head with the vice president whose firing nearly two weeks ago led the military to step in, and recalling 'forever' the unpopular first lady as head of the women's league.

Mnangagwa, who was fired by Mugabe two weeks ago, is expected to lead a new government. Without the military's intervention, first lady Grace Mugabe likely would have replaced him as vice president and been in a position to succeed her husband.

One of Mnangagwa's top aides told MailOnline that Mugabe was 'like a bitter wife whose husband has filed divorce papers'.

Speaking outside the Zanu-PF committee meeting, he said: 'Mugabe is not a problem for us now. He has no power. We are divorcing him and he's getting zero alimony.'

The aide, who asked not to be named, added: 'Whether he resigns today or tomorrow, he's finished. We engineered everything very well and it went very smoothly.'

Mr Mnangagwa, who has just been appointed leader of Zanu-PF, is widely expected to become president when the 93-year-old Mr Mugabe is finally deposed.

The new leader's cousin, Lucky Kunene, told MailOnline that when power has been fully transferred, Zimbabwe will 'change from dictatorship to freedom'.

'My cousin is feeling happy and satisfied that justice has been done,' he said. 'He has always been ready to serve Zimbabwe but the people have not been ready to accept him. That has all changed now.'

He pointed out that Mnangagwa was the architect of Zimbabwe's security apparatus and judicial system that brought down crime levels.

'He is from the progressive side of Zanu-PF and this is what our country needs,' the cousin said. 'He has lost elections twice and never questioned the result. He has shown that he respects democracy and the rule of law.'

Mr Kunene added: 'My cousin places the economy first, not his own power. When he takes over, it will finally be the fulfilment of the people's wishes for black empowerment, economic prosperity and democracy.'

Mnangagwa's aide added: 'My only fear was that the fury of our people would be uncontrollable. But they were so magnanimous.

'We felt like taking over the old man's home and smashing it up, but instead we sang and danced.'

During Sunday's meeting, chairman Obert Mpofu told the committee that they were meeting with 'a heavy heart' because Mugabe had served the country and contributed 'many memorable achievements'. 

But Mpofu said in his opening remarks that Mugabe's wife 'and close associates have taken advantage of his frail condition' to loot national resources.

The army threatened to let a mob lynch Mugabe if he didn't stand down, MailOnline revealed on Saturday. Now Mugabe has responded by rejecting all food.

'If he dies under military custody, even by natural causes, then the army will be held responsible by the international community,' the family member, who asked not to be named, said. 'That is how the president is trying to put pressure on the army.' 

The family member also said that Grace Mugabe was by her husband's side at the Blue Roof mansion yesterday, and is thought to still be there today.

The meeting follows rumours that the dictator had fled the country after hundreds of thousands took to the streets to protest against his rule.

Video footage from protests obtained exclusively by MailOnline showed angry crowds tearing down a huge billboard of Mugabe outside the headquarters of the ruling Zanu-PF party in central Harare. 

The footage shows dramatic scenes that would have been unthinkable just a few days ago.  

While Mugabe has been removed as party leader, his title as president of Zimbabwe remains. 

He can only be removed from his presidency through resignation or impeachment, launched through a constitutional process. 

'What is left is just the technical detail of how he's going to leave,' former Zimbabwean finance minister Tendai Biti told Sky News. 'Even if Zanu-PF does remove him - if they do have the power, which i doubt - that doesn't amount to removing him as president of the country.

'There has to be formal processes - either his own resignation or an impeachment.' 

A Zimbabwean ruling party member said there could be prosecutions of members of a party faction close to Mugabe's wife.