Zimbabwe’s sacked vice president has claimed he left the country after receiving threats – but vowed to return to lead the nation.

Emmerson Mnangagwa said he had to leave Zimbabwe because of “incessant threats” to him and his family by people who allegedly have tried to kill him in the past.

Mr Mnangagwa said he is safe, but has not mentioned his location.

Former Zimbabwean deputy president Emmerson MnangagwaFormer Zimbabwean vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa (Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP)

President Robert Mugabe said he sacked his long-time ally after he consulted with witch doctors as part of a plot to seize power.

Mr Mnangagwa had been seen as a potential successor to the long-time leader.

Now, Mr Mugabe’s wife Grace appears poised for the role.

Mr Mugabe, 93, told thousands of cheering supporters that Mr Mnangagwa had plotted to take over since becoming a vice president in 2014.

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe smiles as he arrives for a a solidarity rally in HararePresident Robert Mugabe smiles as he arrives for a solidarity rally in Harare (AP)

Mr Mnangagwa replaced Joice Mujuru, who had been ousted and accused by Mr Mugabe of using witchcraft to take power.

“We have kicked him out for the same reasons,” the president said.

First lady Grace Mugabe has been endorsed by ruling party officials to take over from Mr Mnangagwa as vice president, which puts her in prime position to succeed her husband.

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace greet supporters at a solidarity rally in HarareMr Mugabe and his wife Grace greet supporters at the rally (AP)

Zimbabwe’s War Veterans Association has expelled Mr Mugabe as its leader and has formed a revolutionary council to take over the ruling ZANU-PF party.

“We have completely disowned Mugabe,” war veterans’ leader Chris Mutsvangwa said in a statement.

The association of former fighters for independence is loyal to Mr Mnangagwa.

The war veterans’ statement used language similar to that used by Mr Mugabe’s guerrillas during their fight against white minority-ruled Rhodesia in the 1970s.