Zimbabwe Opposition Leader Morgan Tsvangirai Is Dead
Morgan Tsvangirai, the veteran Zimbabwean opposition leader who fought Robert Mugabe’s regime for many years, died on Wednesday after battling against cancer, a party official said.
His death on Wednesday night at the age of 65 throws uncertainty over his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party less than three months after the army ousted 93-year-old foe from the presidency.
Mr Tsvangirai, who founded the MDC in 1999, was among the most prominent critics of Mugabe, the long-time authoritarian leader who was ousted from power in November.
Elections are due within the next six months and Tsvangirai’s illness and now death leaves his party in disarray, to the advantage of the ruling ZANU-PF party, now led by former Mugabe deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa.
“It is sad for me to announce that we have lost our icon and fighter for democracy,” Elias Mudzuri, one of the vice-presidents of the MDC, said on Twitter.
Mr Tsvangirai’s death was confirmed to The Telegraph by a family member.
Mr Mugabe’s government detained him on numerous occasions over his vocal criticism of the regime.
Security forces swooped on Mr Tsvangirai in 1989 after he bluntly warned about the rising tide of political repression in the country.
Mr Tsvangirai also claimed to have been the target of four assassination attempts – including one in 1997 in which he said attackers attempted to throw him out of his office window.
Mr Tsvangirai took his furtive first steps on the country’s complex and sometimes violent political scene as a trade union activist in the 1980s.
He went on to form a unity government with Mugabe after disputed elections in 2008 in which he beat the veteran autocrat – now 93 years old – in the first round of the vote.
But violence against Mr Tsvangirai’s supporters, which he claimed cost 200 lives, prompted him to pull out of the run-off.
Only outside mediation helped put the lid back on Zimbabwe’s fractious politics and usher in a period of power sharing and relative calm.
But Tsvangirai was quickly relegated to junior partner in the coalition and excluded from all major economic and foreign policy decisions, as well as from any debate over the role of the security services.
He faced off against Mugabe three times at the ballot box and had been expected to oppose him once again in presidential elections set for 2018.
A teetotalling nonsmoker from Zimbabwe’s majority Shona community, Mr Tsvangirai had widely been seen as the best hope for reviving Zimbabwe’s divided politics and moribund economy and was a forceful anti-corruption advocate.
Mr Tsvangirai was recognised on several occasions for his commitment to political change, and was widely thought to have been shortlisted for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
In 2009, just three weeks after becoming prime minister in Zimbabwe’s first post-independence power-sharing government, his wife Susan was killed in a car crash that also left him injured.
But some commentators suggested that it was his crushing defeat in fraud-riddled elections in 2013 that he was never able to recover from.
And in 2016 he announced that he was undergoing chemotherapy to treat colon cancer.
Mr Tsvangirai and Mnangagwa enjoyed a cordial relationship with the opposition veteran attending the new president’s inauguration.
Mr Tsvangirai is survived by his second wife Elizabeth Macheka.