Zimbabwe bids farewell to opposition hero Tsvangirai

Members of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party pay their respects around the coffin of Morgan Tsvangirai during the burial of Zimbabwe's iconic opposition leader who died last week after a battle with cancer, on February 20, 2018, at his rural village Humanikwa in Buhera. PHOTO | AFP 

Thousands of Zimbabweans gathered Tuesday to bid a final farewell to opposition veteran Morgan Tsvangirai who was one of Africa's most globally admired politicians and lived to see the fall of his political nemesis Robert Mugabe.

Mr Tsvangirai, the country's fiercest opponent of former president Mugabe's tyrannical 37-year rule, died last Wednesday aged 65 at a hospital in South Africa where he had been undergoing treatment for colon cancer.

His body was flown to the burial ceremony aboard a military helicopter, accompanied by his mother Mbuya Tsvangirai.

Thousands of mourners gathered for the burial at Mr Tsvangirai's Buhera rural home, 220km south of Harare.

Many people in the crowd blew whistles and wore red shirts emblazoned with Mr Tsvangirai's portrait, some weeping openly.

Mr Tsvangirai's dreams of unseating President Mugabe through the ballot box were dashed at several elections.

Political oppression

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga, attending the event, condemned political oppression in Africa as he addressed supporters of Mr Tsvangirai whose electoral ambitions, like Mr Odinga's, were thwarted at controversial polls.

"Africa is littered with elections which are rigged," Mr Odinga told the crowds.

Mr Tsvangirai beat President Mugabe in the first round of polls in 2008 but narrowly fell short of the total required to defeat Mugabe outright, according to the official vote count.

Mr Tsvangirai pulled out of an election run-off following violence which, he said, claimed the lives of at least 200 of his supporters.

Mr Odinga insists he was the rightful winner of General Election in Kenya in August which extended President Uhuru Kenyatta's rule.

"We need to have clear and proper transparent elections in Africa. Rigged elections will not help Africa," Mr Odinga told mourners.

Victory was stolen

"Morgan's election victory was stolen a year after mine was stolen in Kenya," Mr Odinga said, referring to the 2007 elections which Mr Odinga alleges were rigged to ensure Kenyatta's victory.

Mr Tsvangirai was a tenacious opponent of the ruling Zanu-PF party's four-decade hold on power.

Following the 2008 election violence, he was forced into a power-sharing government with President Mugabe, who was ousted last year following a military takeover.

"He agreed to sacrifice his victory in order to save Zimbabwe. He became one of the leading icons of the second liberation of Africa," Mr Odinga said, describing Mr Tsvangirai as "my dear brother" and a "hero".

Zimbabwe is due to hold crucial General Election by July and the country's new President Emmerson Mnangagwa has pledged they will be free, fair and credible — in honour of Mr Tsvangirai.


After being repeatedly beaten and jailed by the regime, Tsvangirai became a symbol of resistance to the ruling Zanu-PF's authoritarianism, entrenched since Zimbabwe broke from its colonial master Britain in 1980.

"We want to thank Morgan Tsvangirai for fighting for our rights. He was a humble man — a man who was loved by people," said Christopher Chikwati, a 70-year-old resident of Tsvangirai's village. "We will remember him forever."

Former opposition leader Arthur Mutambara, who served as Mr Tsvangirai's deputy in the power-sharing government, said Mr Tsvangirai was Zimbabwe's rightful president.

"We are here to mourn the president of Zimbabwe, Morgan Tsvangirai — a great Zimbabwean, a great African," he said.

"He was arrested. He was beaten. The people of Zanu-PF are also here, they are the people who killed Morgan Tsvangirai."

Mr Tsvangirai's death has sparked a bitter succession struggle within the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) which is threatening to divide the party to the benefit of Zanu-PF.

The party's acting president Nelson Chamisa said Mr Mugabe and his wife Grace had sent a condolence letter to Mr Tsvangirai's family. (AFP)

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