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HARARE, (Xinhua) -- Supporters hold photos of the late Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai during a public funeral ceremony in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Feb. 19, 2018. The public funeral ceremony was held Monday for Morgan Tsvangirai who died in South Africa last week after a long battle with cancer. XINHUA PHOTO: SHAUN JUSA

Zimbabwean Opposition Leader Morgan Tsvangirai
has died fighting for national peace and democracy       

By Tichaona Chifamba HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- As Zimbabweans mourn the passing of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in South Africa on Wednesday, debate has shifted to the type of honour that should be bestowed on former President Robert Mugabe’s nemesis.

Social media was on Thursday awash with people offering their condolences and others calling on the government to honour him as one of the country’s national heroes.

Presidential spokesperson George Charamba told state media that the government, which had been footing Tsvangirai’s medical bills since President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his deputy Constantino Chiwenga visited him in Harare in January, would help out with funeral expenses.

“In the interim, with the family taking the necessary decisions the Zimbabwean embassy in Pretoria has been instructed to help in any way appropriate in the circumstances including assuming the costs that are attendant to the proper handling of the body of the late,” he said.

Mnangagwa on Thursday sent a condolence message to the Tsvangirai family saying that Tsvangirai would be remembered especially for his readiness to stretch and reach out across the political divide for a government of national unity after the polarizing 2008 elections.

Mnangagwa said whatever controversial decisions Tsvangirai and his party may have made in the past, he would be remembered for his insistence on free, fair and peaceful elections which Zimbabweans must validate in the forthcoming 2018 harmonized elections.

Tsvangirai emerged from being a leader of the trade union movement to become Mugabe’s strongest opponent since the ruling Zanu-PF party united with Joshua Nkomo’s former PF-Zapu to become the United Zanu-PF in 1987.

His party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), was born out of the NCA in 1999 and together with the NCA campaigned against the first proposed constitution in 2000, alleging that it did not capture the wishes of the people and vested too much power in the President.

He contested the presidential election in 2002 and lost to Mugabe under what the opposition considered controversial circumstances.

  Late Zimbabwe Opposition Leader Morgan Tsvangirai | Coastweek

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Late Zimbabwe Opposition Leader Morgan Tsvangirai. PHOTO - XINHUA

He went on to contest the 2008 presidential elections and won the first round although he failed to garner the required 50 plus one percent of the vote. This led to a re-run of the election but he withdrew citing violence allegedly being perpetrated on his supporters by Mugabe’s supporters and the military.

However, the widely discredited election led to the intervention of the Southern African Development Community and the subsequent signing of a Global Political Agreement with Mugabe and the MDC.

The agreement led to the formation of an inclusive government in 2009 in which Tsvangirai became Prime Minister and chairperson of the Council of Ministers while Mugabe remained President and chairperson of Cabinet.

During the first years of the inclusive government, the country experienced economic growth which however waned as it moved towards fresh elections in 2013.

Following Mugabe and Zanu-PF’s victory in the 2013 elections, Tsvangirai and his party retreated back to the corridors of opposition politics. Tsvangirai in 2016 announced that he had been diagnosed with colon cancer.

Since then he had travelled to South Africa for treatment on a number of occasions and in January he intimated that he was considering stepping down as leader of the party.

“At a personal level, I feel an air of satisfaction as I reflect on the great journey we have travelled together even as I seriously ponder about the future,” he said.

“I am looking at the imminent prospects of us as the older generation leaving the levers of leadership to allow the younger generation to take forward this huge task that we started together so many years ago,” he said.

He said his appointment of two vice presidents in 2017 in addition to Thokozani Khupe was meant to provide the party with a clear succession plan.

As he breathed his last in the early evening of Wednesday, his party was embroiled in a succession battle which supporters hoped would be weathered before elections are expected to be held as early as June.

Meanwhile, Zimbabweans and the international community continue to offer their condolences to the man who was the face of opposition in Zimbabwean politics.


Zimbabwe’s late opposition leader Tsvangirai to be buried in his rural home

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Late MDC-T leader and former Prime Minister of Zimbabwe Morgan Tsvangirai will be buried in Buhera, his rural home in Manicaland Province, on Monday, state broadcaster ZBC reported Friday.

The ZBC said Tsvangirai’s body will arrive back home from South Africa on Saturday and lie in state at the Tsvangirai residence in Harare.

On Sunday, the body will be taken to the Robert Mugabe Square in the outskirts of the capital for a public farewell.

Thereafter the body will be taken to Humanikwa Village in Buhera, where he will be buried next to his first wife Susan Tsvangirai on Monday.

Tsvangirai died in South Africa on Wednesday after a long battle with cancer. He was 65.

The Zimbabwe government, which has been helping foot Tsvangirai’s medical bills, has accorded him a state-assisted funeral.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday led the nation in paying tribute to the late opposition leader, who was the face of opposition politics in Zimbabwe.

"A strong trade unionist and opposition leader, the late Tsvangirai will be remembered, especially for his readiness to stretch and reach out across the political divide for a Government of National Unity after the polarized 2008 polls," Mnangagwa said.

He said his government will do everything possible to ensure the departed opposition leader gets a dignified send-off.


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