Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party's congress has endorsed President Robert Mugabe to be their candidate in the 2018 election when he will be 94.
The authoritarian leader, who has been in office for 36 years, was endorse by all party structures, and the announcement was met with resounding applause from the thousands of supporters attending the annual conference in Masvingo, 185 miles (300 km) southeast of the capital, Harare.
Attendees broke into a chant, in the Shona language "tongai, tongai baba" meaning "rule, rule father."
The congress voiced "its support to the president and first secretary comrade Robert Mugabe as the sole candidate for the forthcoming 2018 elections," said deputy secretary Eunice Sandi Moyo.
Zimbabwe gained independence from British rule in 1980 and Mugabe has ruled the country ever since. To date he has never named a successor, or even discussed retirement. Indeed, he once joked that he would rule until he turned 100.
Internal power struggle
With no clear successor in sight party infighting has broken out on social media in recent weeks, as different factions angle to succeed Mugabe as president.
Joshua Sako, a white commercial farmer who has supported ZANU-PF since his youth, told DW that senior party leaders, whose fights have been played out in public, are a disgrace to the party that led Zimbabwe to independence.
"Some of our seniors seem to be losing track. It is not about individual interests. If you start concentrating on what is important for you as an individual, then you lose focus," said Sako.
He said that what most matters are issues of importance for the whole country, as well as the party. "We need to remain focused on what we can achieve together.”
Outside the party, civic society groups and pro-democracy activists have been mounting pressure on Mugabe to resign. Several demonstrations have been held recently, to protest against the country's economic meltdown and ZANU-PF's leadership.
"Let us stop fighting each other," Mugabe said, referring to the succession fights that have engulfed his party.
bik/jm (AFP, dpa)