The Life and Times of Morgan Tsvangirai (1952-2018) - aksu360

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The Life and Times of Morgan Tsvangirai (1952-2018)

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Morgan Tsvangirai (pronounced CHAN-gih-ray), a veteran Zimbabwean opposition leader who confronted Robert Mugabe’s regime for many years, has died  after a battle with cancer. Tsvangirai, who founded the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party in 1999, was among the most prominent critics of Mugabe, the long-time authoritarian leader who was ousted from power in November.

The man Morgan Tsvangirai
In 2002 and again in 2008, Mr. Tsvangirai stood against Mr. Mugabe in elections marred by growing levels of violence against opposition supporters by government followers. The abuses peaked in 2008, when Mr. Tsvangirai won more votes than Mr. Mugabe in the election’s first round but withdrew from a runoff, saying he did not want anyone to be murdered for voting. About 200 of his supporters had already been killed. 

Mr. Tsvangirai proved no match for Mr. Mugabe’s wily political manoeuvring, which drew on his record as a leader in the struggle against white minority rule, his often violent intolerance of opposition, and his ability to marshal support from regional and broader African political forces.

Mr. Mugabe frequently spoke against Britain, the former colonial power, and depicted his adversaries, including Mr. Tsvangirai, as puppets of the country’s former imperial overlords. When Mr. Tsvangirai became prime minister in 2009 under a power-sharing agreement brokered by neighbouring South Africa (consequence of a flawed vote of 2008), the pact and his new job diminished his ability to oppose the president.

In 2012, after Mr. Tsvangirai celebrated his second marriage with a glitzy party attended by guests arriving in Bentleys, Mercedes and BMWs, some of his followers were aghast at the ostentatiousness of the display and questioned who had paid for it.

By the time elections were held the following year, Mr. Tsvangirai was greatly weakened. He accused Mr. Mugabe of rigging the election and challenged him in the courts. But Mr. Mugabe claimed victory with 61% of the vote, compared with 34% for Mr. Tsvangirai, and it seemed that Mr. Tsvangirai’s brush with high office was over. That was certainly Mr. Mugabe’s view.

“We have thrown the enemy away like garbage,” Mr. Mugabe said. “We say to them: You are never going to rise again.”

His Family life:
A powerful public speaker, Tsvangirai was born to a bricklayer father in Buhera, in the southeast of Zimbabwe. At independence from Britain in 1980, Tsvangirai became branch chairman of the National Mine Workers Union, rising through the ranks to become secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) in 1988, a post he relinquished when he formed the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in 1999.
Mr. Tsvangirai with his wife, Elizabeth Mechaka, at a national policy conference in Harare in May 2013.
In 1978 he married Susan Mhundwa, with whom he had 6 children before her death in a car accident in 2009. He married Elizabeth Macheka 3 years later. 

Morgan Tsvangirai and Politics:
Like Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Mnangagwa, Mr. Tsvangirai was a member of the dominant Shona ethnic group. But while they chose armed resistance from exile in the so-called front-line states bordering what was then Rhodesia, Mr. Tsvangirai became a labor union leader, defending workers’ rights and rising through the ranks. He was elected secretary general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions in 1988.

His political roots in the labor movement set him apart from those like Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Mnangagwa, who drew their legitimacy from the 7-year war against white minority rule. Initially an ally, he became a thorn in the side of Mr. Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party. 
Tsvangirai (L) and Mugabe (R) pictured in 2013.
Famed for his vicious criticism of Mr. Mugabe’s government, Mr. Tsvangirai was twice detained during his time as a labor leader, the first time in 1989 after he voiced concern over rising state repression. 3 years later, he was arrested for ignoring a ban on public protests ordered by Mr. Mugabe.

In 1999, he founded the Movement for Democratic Change as a challenger to Mr. Mugabe’s ZANU-PF Party. He soon discovered that opposition to Mr. Mugabe was a dangerous business.

In the late 1990s, he went on record in the local news media claiming that assailants had tried to throw him from his office window. In 2001, he narrowly escaped the hangman’s noose when he was tried on charges of plotting to kill Mr. Mugabe before the 2002 presidential election.

In 2003, Mr. Tsvangirai faced a treason charge for urging his party supporters to topple Mr. Mugabe’s government. The case was thrown out without going to trial. 4 years later, he was among many opposition supporters who were beaten as they tried to stage an anti-government rally. Mr. Tsvangirai sustained head injuries that drew broad international media attention.

The Future:
Even as he fell ill with cancer, however, Mr. Tsvangirai failed to groom a successor, and he left behind a fractured party with no obvious leader to challenge Mr. Mnangagwa in the Zimbabwean elections expected latter in 2018. 

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