Tsvangirai: a true hero

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Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai (65) died today following a long battle with cancer of the colon.

Tsvangirai had been in and out of hospital after revealing to the world that he was diagnosed with cancer in 2016.

A former labor union leader, opposed former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in every election since 2000 and won a first round presidential vote in 2008 before backing out of the second round, citing violence against his supporters.

Morgan Tsvangirai was born on March 10, 1952 in Gutu, Zimbabwe. His father was a mine worker, carpenter, and farmer.

He attended St. Marks Goneso Primary School Hwedza. He then transferred to Chikara Primary School Gutu.

For his secondary education, he attended Gokomere High School. He served as prime minister in a coalition government from 2009 to 2013. In his early career he proved to be an extremely hard worker and worked in a nickel mine for over a decade.

He quickly gained recognition and rose in the ranks of the Mine Workers Union eventually becoming secretary-general. Over the years his political opposition to the current administration grew stronger.

After failing at an attempt to create a new constitution to dethrone President Robert Mugabe he formed a new political party. This group became the strongest opposition in the country’s history.

He made attempts to run against him in a valid election but Mugabe’s administration responded with intimidation, threats, and even arrest.

As a result, Tsvangirai was arrested three times for treason against his government. Though all the charges were eventually dropped, he made little success in chipping away at the dictator’s power. He succeeded in creating a power-sharing government in which he was named prime minister.  Though he was never able to defeat Mugabe in any election he has made the government’s abuse of power an international issue.

He had eight younger brothers and sisters and the family faced financially difficulty. Because of this, as soon as he could, he left the school to seek employment to help his family. 1972, he got his first job.  He worked as a trainee weaver for Elastics & Tapes textile factory in Mutare.

In 1974, he began working at Trojan Nickel Mine. During this time he also became an active participant of the Associated Mineworkers Union. He continued working in the mine gaining recognition. This resulted in the Mine Workers Union electing him vice president in 1985. In 1988, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions made him secretary-general.

He was so popular and successful that he remained in this role until he resigned eleven years later due to the trade union splitting into different parties.

In 1997 and 1998, he openly opposed President Robert Mugabe’s taxation policy. Using his position as secretary general, he led a series of strikes. At the same time, he joined the National Constitutional Assembly and served as its chairman. He strongly campaigned in favour of creating a new constitution for Zimbabwe.

In 1999, he formed the Movement for Democratic Change. The party proved to be the most successful opposition challenge in Zimbabwe history. He ran as a candidate in the presidential elections in 2002 against former president Robert Mugabe. Right before voting, however, he was charged with treason over allegations that he was attempting to assassinate the current president. It was widely believed that Mugabe won by rigging that same election. He continued to be arrested, acquitted, and rearrested countless times between 2002 and 2007. He was arrested for treason for plotting assassination, calling for mass protests, and during a very controversial prayer rally.

On September 15, 2008, President Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai signed the Global Political Agreement.

This negotiation led to a power sharing agreement, with Mugabe remaining as president, Tsvangirai as prime minister, and another leader, Mutambara, as deputy prime minister.

On February 11, 2009 he was sworn in as prime minister of Zimbabwe. Despite the shared power, the new government was overwhelmed with disagreements and conflict. In the 2013 general elections, which were once again believed to be rigged, Robert Mugabe was re-elected as president. As per the 2013 Constitution, the office of Prime Minister was abolished.

Tsvangirai became Robert Mugabe’s biggest threat since 1999 Morgan Tsvangirai played a stellar role in bringing international attention to the human rights abuse and the ongoing dictatorship in Zimbabwe.

Through his persistent efforts, he forced President Mugabe to agree on a power-sharing arrangement. However, the arrangement didn’t last long.

In 2001, he received the Solida Silver Rose Award. He was given the honour for his outstanding achievement in civil society activities. For upholding human rights, he was given the Human Rights Award in 2009.

He received this award for his persistent fight for human rights in his home country. n 2009, he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award. It was given to him by the Spanish Foundation Cristobal Gabarron for his fight for democracy and peace.

In 2013, the Sun Moon University of South Korea bestowed an Honorary Doctorate degree in Public Administration. He is only the 13th person to receive such an honorary degree from the 125-year old institution.

On July 10, 1979 he married Susan Nyaradzo Mhundwa. Together the couple had six children. Tragically, Susan passed away in 2009 in a car accident.

He has survived at least three assassination attempts. One of these attempts occurred in 1997 when the assassin burst into his office and tried to throw him out of the tenth story window.