Zimbabwe's vice president Joice Mujuru has said that she is taking legal action against pro-government newspapers that accused her of corruption and plotting to topple President Robert Mugabe.

"I am accused of being involved in a plot to overthrow the legitimate Zimbabwean government led by His Excellency RG Mugabe," Mujuru said her in first full response to charges against her in the state media, including recent reports that she is leading a plot to assassinate the leader.

"I deny any and all allegations of treason, corruption, incompetence and misuse of public office being routinely made against me in The Herald and The Sunday Mail newspapers."

She said she consulted her "legal practitioners to take the necessary steps at law to restore my good reputation, political standing and dignity".

Mujuru came under attack after Mugabe's wife, Grace, claimed the vice president was extorting money from companies and that she was fomenting factionalism which is threatening to tear the ruling ZANU-PF party apart.

Grace Mugabe claimed Mujuru was incompetent and that Mugabe was doing the bulk of her work.

She urged Mujuru to apologise to Mugabe for alleged disloyalty, threatening street protests if Mugabe refused to sack her.

'Demonic and divisive'

ZANU-PF has been riven by factionalism over Mugabe's succession.

The feuding escalated following the surprise nomination of Grace Mugabe to lead the powerful women's wing, amid speculation that she could be aiming to take over from her husband after he steps down or passes away.

After her nomination she began a campaign disparaging her opponents, singling out Mujuru for the harshest attacks calling her "demonic" and "divisive".

Following the first lady's statements, the ruling party suspended perceived Mujuru allies including party veteran and spokesman Rugare Gumbo.

Mujuru and powerful Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa - who in the past controlled the secret police and military -- are seen as the leading contenders to replace Mugabe.

Mugabe is expected to be confirmed as the party's leader at the congress, but the fight for positions on the powerful politburo is seen as the start of a campaign by leaders to succeed him.

Source: Agencies