Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe plans to "relinquish" office in 18 months' time if he is eventually declared winner of that country's presidential poll and he has also chosen a long-time ally as his successor.
Quoting unnamed "influential" figures of Mugabe's Zanu-PF party,
The Sunday Telegraph
said a deal on handing over power to Minister for Rural Housing and Social Amenities Emmerson Mnangagwa was reached in Harare last month.
"Mugabe will hand over power to Mnangagwa within one-and-a-half years. In one meeting, Mugabe declared he was tired and wanted to step down and rest.
"But his fear was that if he stepped down before the elections, (MDC leader Morgan) Tsvangirai would trounce a Zanu-PF presidential candidate because there were divisions in the party.
"Mnangagwa has been picked as the successor. He has been going through a grooming programme in the past three months," the British newspaper quoted one of the senior party members as saying, without revealing his name.
Mnangagwa was head of Zimbabwe's intelligence service in 1981, during the civil war which followed independence and at a time when about 20,000 of the minority Ndebele population were slaughtered.
Mugabe chose him to head Zimbabwe's delegation at talks in Lusaka last week on the crisis. "Mnangagwa is running the party," another unnamed Zanu-PF source said.
Three weeks after Zimbabwea went to the polls, Mugabe appears increasingly determined to cling to power. Election officials have started recounting votes in 23 out of the 210 constituencies, amid fears that Mugabe's party could overturn the parliamentary result which saw Zanu-PF lose its majority to its main rival, the Movement for Democratic Change.