Harare – Zimbabwe’s opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is set to be laid to rest on Tuesday in his rural home village of Buhera.
Tsvangirai died last week on Wednesday in a Johannesburg hospital where he was receiving medical treatment for colon cancer.
He was 65.
Reports on Tuesday indicated that Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga, who arrived in the country on Monday was set to attend Tsvangirai’s burial.
According to New Zimbabwe.com, Odinga said that Tsvangirai’s death had “left a gap in a country that needed strong and vigilant forces of change to return to the path of democracy and freedom”.
“Morgan dared to dream of democracy, freedom and justice for the country and his people despite the firm hands of dictatorship that held sway,” Odinga was quoted as saying.
Tsvangirai, walked a “hard” journey and Zimbabweans should unite in his honour, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said.
Mnangagwa came short of describing Tsvangirai as the people’s hero, while addressing mourners at the late MDC-T leader’s Highlands house, but gave the family a blank cheque regarding his funeral.
“Our former Prime Minister has run his race. It was hard. He walked a hard road. It has been left to us now to work in our different spheres of influence for the good of our country and its development,” he said to ululation and applause from mourners gathered outside.
Mnangagwa said he was closely monitoring Tsvangirai’s treatment progress and will honour his pledge to take care of all bills accrued.
“Tsvangirai was our Prime Minister and I had a chance to come see him here at his home with my deputy [Constantino Chiwenga]. He is my uncle also and when I came here he told me what he needed us to do for him. I promised him and that will be done. I will fulfil my promise to him and to the family just say what you need and it will be taken care of.
“I was getting updates from South Africa, where he was being treated. His wife told us [about] the bills and we instructed government to take care of them. We will also take care of all outstanding bills,” the Zanu PF leader said. “I had my people in South Africa and the doctors gave us updates on the progress he was making. We asked them to do their work without getting worried about how bills would be paid.”
Tsvangirai blazed a trail at the turn of the century after inspiring the formation of the MDC from a conglomeration of civil society organisations led by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and Zimbabwe National Students’ Union, demanding political change in the country.
Then President Robert Mugabe reacted in typical fashion unleashing the might of the State machinery and triggering an orgy of violence that claimed the lives of hundreds of opposition activists across the country and left thousands maimed and displaced.
The late veteran opposition leader was not deterred despite being robbed of electoral victory at every turn in a period spanning two decades, but continued his fight for free, fair and credible democratic political change.
Mnangagwa added that government will airlift Tsvangirai’s body to his rural home, where he will be buried tomorrow.
“I could not receive him at the airport, but I sent our ministers. We kept his body where we keep all our important people and once we have the programme, we will provide a plane to ferry his body to his final resting place,” he said, urging unity as part of the country’s way of honouring the former Premier.
“Politics will be there always but we are one people. I am a leader in my party and government and I have one message, let us unite. We have many parties and might differ on strategy of how to handle issues, but we all wish our country well.”
Acting Information minister Simon Khaya Moyo told journalists that the government will provide logistical support, including transporting mourners.
“We are looking at the number of buses to ferry mourners and will communicate with the family and organisers,” he said.