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Morgan Tsvangirai, the enduring face of Zimbabwe's opposition dies

By AFP and Rawlings Otieno | Published Fri, February 16th 2018 at 00:00, Updated February 15th 2018 at 23:09 GMT +3
Morgan Tsvangirai

Morgan Tsvangirai, who has died after a battle with cancer, was the face of Zimbabwe’s downtrodden opposition for decades.

Jail, beatings by pro-regime thugs and perennial disappointment at the ballot box never dented the 65-year-old’s desire to move the country past decades of autocratic rule by former president Robert Mugabe and his acolytes.

The leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party (MDC) 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 Tsvangirai’s backers, 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 calm.

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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 security services.

He faced off against Mugabe three times at the ballot box and had been set to oppose him once again in polls set for 2018.

“ZANU-PF has not won recent elections, it has rigged them,” Tsvangirai told AFP previously.

“Anyone who is interested in ending ZANU-PF should unite, in spite of ideological differences.”

Separately, Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga has condoled the family of the Tsvangirai.

“I have learnt of the passing of former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai with deep sorrow. My family, our party the Orange Democratic Movement and the National Super Alliance join Mr Tsvangirai’s family, the Movement for Democratic Change and the people of Zimbabwe in mourning his death,” he said.