Harare - The three candidates in Zimbabwe's presidential elections formally submitted their nomination papers on Friday at a special court in the capital Harare.

Papers for President Robert Mugabe were submitted to the nominations court by Emmerson Mnangagwa, the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) secretary for legal affairs.

Former finance minister Simba Makoni, standing as an independent, handed in his papers in person while forms for the main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, were submitted by his senior aide Nelson Chamisa.

Mnangagwa, who is also Mugabe's rural housing minister, said the ruling party was confident of extending its rule both at the presidential vote and the parliamentary elections which are also taking place on March 29.

"We are extremely confident because we have been organising for the last year or so and restructuring the party," he said in brief comments to reporters outside the courthouse.

Makoni, who has been kicked out of Zanu-PF over his challenge to Mugabe, made no comment beyond confirming that he had filed his nomination.

Chamisa made no comment to reporters but other officials from Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party confirmed that he had filed the nomination papers.

A breakaway faction from the MDC was not expected to put up a candidate but rather support Makoni, party sources said.

Mugabe, who turns 84 next week, is hoping to secure a sixth term of office as leader of the former British colony of Rhodesia which he has ruled since independence in 1980.

The elections are taking place against a backdrop of economic meltdown in Zimbabwe, which has an official inflation rate of more than 66 000 percent - the highest in the world.

Unemployment stands at around 80 percent, even basic foodstuffs are scarce, and the general infrastructure is rapidly crumbling. - Sapa-AFP