Former Zimbabwe vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa has vowed to topple President Robert Mugabe after fleeing the country.
President Mugabe fired his long-time deputy on Monday, accusing him of disloyalty and deceit.
The following day, Mr Mnangagwa was reportedly blocked from leaving the country for Mozambique and on Wednesday, he issued a statement denouncing his dismissal, amid indications he was now in South Africa.
It was still not clear how Mr Mnangagwa left Zimbabwe, but there was speculation that he went via Botswana.
“I would like my fellow citizens to know that I am out of the country, and safe,” Mr Mnangagwa said.
“My sudden departure was caused by incessant threats on my person, life and family by those who have attempted before through various forms of elimination including poisoning,” he said.
Mr Mnangagwa said in a statement that was due to be published in newspapers on Thursday: “I stand prepared once again to pay the ultimate price in defence of Zimbabwe.
“I am not afraid of anyone or worried about my political future under the current ‘party capture’ that is being tolerated and condoned by the First family.
“I implore all genuine members of Zanu-PF to reject this ‘party capture’ by a few individuals as I hereby do unequivocally.”
The former VP further said the 93-year-old ruler and First Lady Grace Mugabe could not force him out of the ruling Zanu-PF, promising to return soon to lead Zimbabweans.
“I will fight tooth and nail against those making a mockery against Zanu-PF founding principles, ethos and values.”
The former Justice minister, who was once regarded as President Mugabe’s most likely successor, told his former boss that instead it will be him who will be forced to leave Zanu-PF.
“You and your cohorts will instead leave Zanu-PF by the will of the people and this we will do in the coming few weeks as Zimbabweans in general now require new and progressive leadership that is not resident in the past and refuses to accept change,” he added.
‘Say no to demigods’
“As I leave this post for now I encourage all loyal members of the party to remain in the party to register to vote as we will very soon control the levers of power in our beautiful party and country.
“Let not your hearts be troubled for peace, love unity development and prosperity are around the corner.
“I will be communicating with you soon and shall return to Zimbabwe to lead you.”
Mr Mnangagwa said President Mugabe and his wife must not be allowed to personalise the ruling party.
“Fellow Zimbabweans and specifically members of Zanu-PF, the time is now to say no to demigods and people that are self-centred and only think of themselves and their families,” he said.
President Mugabe and his wife had earlier held a meeting where they denounced Mr Mnangagwa for allegedly plotting a coup.
State-owned media reported that so far, nine out of 10 Zanu-PF provinces had passed resolutions demanding that Mr Mnangagwa must be fired from the party just like his predecessor Joice Mujuru was shown the door in 2014.