HARARE – Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai — who is fighting an aggressive form of cancer of the colon — is struggling with excruciating pain, one of his closest allies told the Daily News yesterday.
By Fungi Kwaramba
The MDC leader was last Wednesday airlifted to South Africa, with his spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka saying that he had gone for a “routine” medical check-up.
Eddie Cross, a veteran MDC lawmaker and one of Tsvangirai’s economic advisers, told the Daily News when he made inquiries into Tsvangirai’s state of health, he was told the former prime minister was in sharp pain.
Cross also claimed that although President Robert Mugabe was also suffering ill-health, he was surprised that the limelight has been focussed on Tsvangirai, who publicly revealed his illness in June last year and has been regularly undergoing treatment in neighbouring South Africa.
“I talked to someone who spoke to him and he is in good spirits… Mugabe has been sick for many years and although it has slowed him down, he has continued in his leadership role.
“…Tsvangirai has been open and honest and is struggling with the treatment which in many ways is worse than the disease at this stage,” Cross said.
Speculation has been swirling over Tsvangirai’s real health status as he continues to fail to attend crucial meetings of the MDC Alliance that require his attention.
His deputy Nelson Chamisa has been standing in for him at the MDC Alliance meetings.
Presently, Tsvangirai is the leader of the MDC Alliance — a coalition arrangement among six opposition parties that has failed to attract other parties like the Joice Mujuru led National People’s Party (NPP) and Zapu led by Dumiso Dabengwa because of the name.
Some opposition figures who spoke to the Daily News last week said they are waiting for Tsvangirai’s return to full-time politics before they join his MDC Alliance since he is the coalition leader.
The MDC Alliance principals have resolved to established various national alliance committees which include Communications, Organising and Networks, International Relations, Legal Services and Electoral Reforms, Youth and Women to take the pressure off Tsvangirai.
The principals resolved that all party organs nationally from the branches to the provinces must convene to establish alliance coordinating committees and immediately organise joint activities with specific reference to voter education and registration mobilisation at every level.
The national organisers of the respective parties are spearheading this programme.
While Tsvangirai’s true, current state of health has been a closely-guided secret, it has triggered intense jockeying among his three deputies, namely Thokozani Khupe, Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri.
Even though publicly most of his lieutenants claim that he is on the mend, Cross said the veteran trade unionist’s medical condition was pretty serious.
In a post a fortnight ago Cross, said Tsvangirai was suffering from an aggressive form of colon cancer.
“He has been struggling with his treatment and the family is concerned that he might not handle the election and subsequently the responsibility of being president of a country in a deep crisis,” said Cross.
“After a lifetime of principled struggle, to have it all threatened by a disease in your body, is not fair . . . Life can be a bastard at times.”
Compared to Mugabe, who constantly flies to Singapore for medical attention the MDC leader has himself spoken openly about his battle with cancer gaining respect from even those in Zanu PF. Tsvangirai has revealed he has undergone over 10 chemotherapy sessions.
Leading doctors who treat various forms of cancer, including those in the colon area where Tsvangirai has been stricken, say aggressive cancer points to a new, potentially critical stage for the MDC president.
“He is confronted with a very fragile set of circumstances, one of great unpredictability if the tumour is aggressive,” said a Harare-based oncologist who declined to be named for professional reasons.
“There is a risk of another lesion developing elsewhere in his body, in a lung, or in the liver. That’s called metastasis.”
The surgeon said it is difficult to give a proper prognosis in the absence of direct knowledge of Tsvangirai’s health.
Tsvangirai, a 65-year-old leftist firebrand opposition leader who has formed alliances with seven other opposition parties, has been a potent political force since he formed the MDC in 1999.
But since June last year, questions about his health have dominated political discussions in mineral-rich Zimbabwe.