Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa has fired his State Security minister "for conduct inappropriate for a minister of government."
President Mnangagwa's office announced the sacking of Owen Ncube on Monday January 10 in a brief statement amid speculation that the two fellout over violence that rocked the ruling Zanu PF's recent internal elections.
The ruling party a week ago held its first internal elections since the 2017 coup that toppled long time ruler Robert Mugabe, who was replaced by President Mnangagwa.
Mr Ncube, who was in charge of the feared Central Intelligence Organisation, was close ally of the 78-year-old president.
The president's office did not give any further reasons for the former minister's sacking.
Mr Ncube was considered to be among the hardliners in President Mnangagwa's government and was accused by the United States as well as the United Kingdom of behind the violent clampdowns against the regime's critics.
In January 2019, he ordered a three-day internet shutdown during anti-government protests against steep fuel price increases.
The US responded by adding the minister on its sanctions list for gross violations of human rights.
"In his role as the minister of national security, (Mr) Ncube, with the support of other Zimbabwean government officials, ordered the Zimbabwean security services to identify, abduct and mistreat individuals assessed to be supporters of a Zimbabwean opposition group," the US State Department said at the time.
"In addition, while in his position, the government of Zimbabwe has at times used so-called 'ferret teams' to abduct and beat individuals deemed to be a threat to the ruling Zimbabwe African National Patriotic Front (Zanu PF) party.
"(Mr) Ncube is being designated for being responsible for or participating in human rights abuses related to political represssion in Zimbabwe."
The UK gave the same reasons when it placed the former minister and other security chiefs under targetted sanctions last year.
He became the fifth minister to be fired by President Mnangagwa since he came to power five years ago.