Zimbabwe's main opposition party on Friday fired its deputy president and two other senior officials on misconduct charges, stoking fears of a split in the party ahead of key elections in July, a month after the death of founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) expelled Thokozani Khupe, a former deputy prime minister, ending a protracted succession feud which flared into an open fight following Tsvangirai's death.
"The national council resolved, by more than the mandatory two thirds of the vote that vice president Khupe be removed from the party," the party's deputy national chair Morgan Komichi said in a statement.
"She continued to hold illegal meetings and partake in unconstitutional activities, putting the party into disrepute and undermining the constitutional organs of the party," the statement added.
"Despite efforts to address her grievances she remained stubborn, obdurate, intransigent and spurned all party efforts to address her grievances."
Khupe and fellow deputy presidents Nelson Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri were locked in a battle to succeed trade union stalwart Tsvangirai who led the party from its inception in 1999.
Khupe argued that according to the party's constitution she was supposed to take-over as acting president until a congress to elect a substantive leader.
Chamisa was appointed leader by the party's national council but his adversaries claimed he had used violence to take over the reigns after Khupe was physically attacked at Tsvangirai's burial.
The MDC has endorsed Chamisa,40, as its presidential candidate to face President Emmerson Mnangagwa,75, in elections expected in July.
Khupe was fired together with party spokesman Obert Gutu and national organising secretary Abednigo Bhebhe.
The party's national chairman and former speaker of parliament Lovemore Moyo on Thursday resigned from the MDC citing disregard for the party's constitution and the internecine battles threatening to tear the party apart.
The MDC paid dearly and handed an easy victory to the ruling ZANU PF in 2006 when the opposition party split over whether to take party in senate elections.
It split again in 2013 when secretary general Tendai Biti left to form his own party after the MDC lost in general elections that year.