Zimbabwe opposition leader Tsvangirai dead at 65

By Harrison Smith | Washington Post

Morgan Tsvangirai, once an impoverished Zimbabwean nickel miner who became a charismatic union leader, pro-democracy activist and eventually the country’s embattled prime minister under a 2008 power-sharing agreement with his longtime foe, Robert Mugabe, died Feb. 14. He was 65.

Elias Mudzuri, a vice president of Tsvangirai’s political party, announced the death on Twitter but did not provide additional details. Tsvangirai was being treated for colon cancer at a hospital in South Africa, according to Zimbabwean news outlets.

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For nearly two decades, Tsvangirai (pronounced chang-girr-EYE) was the heavyset, baritone-voiced embodiment of Zimbabwe’s opposition movement. Sporting a weathered ox-hide jacket and steel-toed work boots, and driving a beat-up Mazda to political rallies, he maintained a working-class persona that veered sharply from that of Mugabe, a former Marxist revolutionary who favored well-tailored suits and a cavalcade fit for a king.

As the founding leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the country’s leading opposition party, Tsvangirai oversaw what at times seemed to be a suicidal effort to oust Mugabe, an autocrat who ruled the country for 37 years.

Soldiers whipped Tsvangirai with belts, prosecutors charged him with treason and plotting to assassinate the president (he was acquitted, but could have been sentenced to death), and assassins tried to take his life at least three times, including during a 1997 attempt when he was nearly thrown out the window of his 10th-story office.

“I will soldier on until Zimbabwe is free,” he wrote in 2007, after he was arrested for attending an anti-government prayer-group meeting and released with a broken arm and bloodied scalp. “Far from killing my spirit, the scars they brutally inflicted on me have re-energized me. I seek no martyrdom. I only seek a new dispensation in my country in which citizens live freely in prosperity and not fear in their rulers.”

Tsvangirai served as prime minister for four years under the power-sharing agreement. Mugabe, who remained as president, consistently outmaneuvered his political rival and proclaimed that “only God will remove me.” The 93-year-old leader was finally ousted last November, after he fired his vice president and was subsequently placed under house arrest by the military and pressured to resign.

At the time, an ailing Tsvangirai said he hoped the resignation would put Zimbabwe on …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics

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