Feb 16th, 2018, 02:12 PM

Morgan Tsvangirai: Zimbabwe's One Mistake

By Khadija Sanusi
Image Credits: Flickr/_EMRC_
Zimbabweans are mourning the death of the President they never had.

On February 14, 2018, Morgan Tsvangirai—the former Prime Minister of Zimbabwe—died of Cancer at 65, in Johannesburg. According to Enca, the current (interim) President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has agreed to a State funeral for the Tsvangirai. The body, however, will not be buried at the "National Heroes Acre."

Many Zimbabweans considered Morgan Tsvangirai a hero. Activist Patson Dzamara told News 24, "we've lost a train of hope. He led us to believe that we can stand up against tyranny. He inspired all of us with bravery. He was the first person to stand up for justice and freedom."

He was known as an advocate for democracy, fighting for two decades to remove dictator President Robert Mugabe who was in power for almost 37 years. His death came just a few months leading to the country's first official presidential election after Mugabe's resignation.

Douglas Yates, an African specialist who is currently at the American Graduate School, shed some light on the matter. "Morgan Tsvangirai was to Zimbabwe what Etienne Tshisekedi was to Congo-Kinshasa. Both men were principled opponents of the dictators in power," he said. He explained that both men faced "hostile authorities, corrupt electoral officials, violent security forces and an international community willing to cover the violence but unwilling to to do anything about it." Although both men are dead, the legacy they left will benefit the future of both countries.

"May they go to a better, more democratic world."

Bulawayo 24 referred to him as "a gallant freedom fighter, Zimbabwean opposition leader and Mugabe's arch nemesis" and "a protagonist to Robert Mugabe's antagonist." Even though he did not see eye-to-eye with Mugabe, Tsvangirai's career did not start and end with the dictator.

Tsvangirai's biographical timeline on Famous People explains that in 1988, he was named the Secretary-general of Zimbabwe's Congress of Trade Unions, a position he held for eleven years until his voluntary resignation. His opposition to Mugabe started around 1997 and 1998 when he openly challenged the taxation policy of the former president. 

Before starting his own party —'Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)'—in 1999, Tsvangirai was a member of the National Constitutional Assembly (NDA), where he served as a Chairman who was a great advocate for a change in the country's constitution. His own party turned out to be the most successful opposition the not just Mugabe's party, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF).


Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Tsvangirai ran in the 2002 Presidential elections against then-President Robert Mugabe. However, he was found guilty of treason for allegedly planning to assassinate the President. According to Famous People,

"It was widely believed that Mugabe won by rigging the elections." 

The site also says that "he continued to be arrested, acquitted and rearrested countless times between 2002 and 2007" over ridiculous allegations such as mass protests and a "controversial" prayer rally. On September 15, 2008, both Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai signed a 'Global Political Agreement,' which made Tsvangirai a Prime Minister and guaranteed Mugabe's reign. This still did not put the two leaders on the same side.

Tsvangirai ran in the 2013 Presidential elections, "which were once again believed to be rigged", placing Mugabe back in power. The new constitution exterminated the office of the Prime Minister.

Mugabe remained in power until November 2017, when he was forced to resign following a de facto coup d'état in Harare, the country's capital. Emmerson Mnangagwa has been acting President until the next elections, which is expected to take place in May 2018.

"The next election will be new compared to previous votes in the last 20 years because the most important characters, Tsvangirai and Mugabe, won't be on the ballot paper," Alex Magaisa, a Zimbabwean academic and former adviser to Tsvangirai, told Al Jazeera.

"We are entering uncharted territory."

One day after Tsvangirai's death, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) named Nelson Chamisa its acting President. This is temporary until an election takes place in which the party can elect its new president. Chamisa is a 40-year-old lawyer whom Eyewitness News referred to as "one of the three MDC vice presidents who were all keen to take over from Tsvangirai."

In Tsvangirai's own words, "If my death is going to cause the change that we are looking for, perhaps it's worth it."