Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader, face of the Zimbabwean opposition and sparring partner to the relentless Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai has died after a long-fought battle with colon cancer.
The news came in this morning from a South African hospital where it was communicated that the 65-year-old had been in and out of hospital-care since disclosing his diagnosis in June 2016.
Tsvangirai, known to many Zimbabweans, Southern Africans and the world as the main opposition figure in Zimbabwe’s darkest days under former President Robert Mugabe, was a powerful orator from humble beginnings working in the rural mines.
Although never grasping victory, as many believe due to the deeply entrenched corruption of Mugabe’s rule, Tsvangirai was the first politician to come within an inch of unseating the long-time liberation leader.
Surviving countless attempts on his life, losing his wife to one such attempt and then going on to serve as a minister under Mugabe’s unity-government from 2009-2013, Tsvangirai helped stabilise the free-falling economy of his country and setting up the foundation for what would become popular discontent at Mugabe’s regime.
His attempt at rule would have been successful in 2013 had it not been for being thrown into a pit of sex scandals and other fabrications which cost him countless votes.
Although Mugabe and Tsvangirai resembled arch-nemeses rather than battling professionals, Mugabe admitted to the grudging respect he held for his opponent, recalling the various Monday teas they would have whilst working together where they would attempt to make light of their constant head-butting.
“I’ve got my fair share of criticisms and also dealt back rights and lefts and upper cuts”, said explained Mugabe before the vote in 2013. “But that’s the game. Although we boxed each other, it’s not as hostile as before”.
Tsvangirai’s career spanned work from 1988 to present day and became known as a “tough and indispensable element for opposition success”. However, his political persona was wrought with indecisiveness and insecurities according to those who knew him well which ultimately led to the fractioning of the MDC in 2013 and Tsvangirai’s slow political decomposition.
Tsvangirai’s work never showed fruit for him directly, but with the resignation of Robert Mugabe in November 2017 at the hands of his deputy president Emerson Mnangagwa, one can’t help but think he may have gotten the last laugh after all.