Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa says the government will help in laying the late MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai to rest.
Tsvangirai succumbed to colon cancer in Johannesburg yesterday.
Tsvangirai’s opposition party the Movement for Democratic Change also met this morning to make burial arrangements.
The ruling Zanu PF's acting Information Minister, Simon Khaya Moyo, said the death of Tsvangirai was untimely, “Such a development was not expected and really we are very sad about it. I believe not only the party, not only the government -- -minister of information as well, but I believe the entire people of Zimbabwe are saddened by this development and all I can say really is that God giveth and he taketh, and we wish his soul to enter and rest in eternal peace. We mourn of course with the family, the relatives and all those who were close to him, and we want to say go well, go well and go well.”
Speaking to the government controlled Herald newspaper, Permanent secretary in the ministry of information, George Charamba says the government has also instructed the Zimbabwean embassy in Pretoria to assist the Tsvangirai family.
‘‘The leadership is now aware of the sad passing on of VaTsvangirai. In the interim, while the family is taking the necessary decisions, the Zimbabwean Embassy in Pretoria has been instructed to help in any way appropriate in the circumstances including assuming the costs that are attendant to the proper handling of the body of the late,’’ Charamba, who is also President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s spokesman said.
Could Tsvangirai, a former Prime Minister, be buried at the Heroes Acre, a place he shunned during his opposition reign as a place where only Zanu-PF members are laid to rest? Khaya Moyo was non-committal “I wouldn’t say anything at the moment, we are still going to be meeting, and decisions will be taken accordingly.”
International Crisis Group Southern Africa project director Pius Pigou says the late Tsvangirai was an inspirational leader. “He was the embodiment really in many ways of the hopes and aspirations of Zimbabweans who dreamt for a better Zimbabwe that many had idolized in the early 1980s, something that was possible in a democratic dream.”
Pigou added, “A spirit of resistance, a man who had a common touch which defied the elitist type of politics for much of the era that has been characterized by elitist politics in Zimbabwe. His passing is of terrible sadness but represents enormous challenge to the new cadre of leadership in Zimbabwe in the opposition, that must continue to take forward the ideals for which Morgan Tsvangirai and the people around him fought for the last 20-or so years.”
CAN THE MDC SURVIVE WITHOUT TSVANGIRAI?
Some political analyst though are of the opinion that the MDC might not survive the death of Tsvangirai as factional fights escalated in the party as he was battling for his life. Pigou though says the party’s chances of survival are high, “That has been a question for some time as to whether the MDC will be able to live on beyond Morgan Tsvangirai. It is important to remember that the struggle for democracy in Zimbabwe was not just about this man. He had many people around him, many of those split away or went in their own direction after various episodes in the MDC’s troubled history. It really now remains to be seen whether the remnants of this organization will be able to pull tighter. We’ve seen some evidence of this in the last six months or so with respect to the development of the MDC Alliance, but we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks the kind of internal fighting that exists both with the alliance and within the MDC itself. One hopes that Mr. Tsvangirai’s passing is going to help those individuals actually focus on the reality of what is important to Zimbabweans, and not about individual, personal preferences and agendas.”
One of Zimbabwe’s music legends, Thomas Mapfumo says the nation has lost an icon, “It’s a great loss for the Zimbabwean people, we have lost a freedom fighter, a man who stood by the people, a man who was for the people” Mapfumo tipped Tsvangirai’s 40 year old vice president Nelson Chamisa to succeed him. We asked him if the party can survive pot Tsvangirai, “Of course, why not? There are youngsters like Chamisa, I mean he is a youngster. If Obama (former US President Barack Obama) was able to rule America, why not Chamisa. Chamisa can also do it in Zimbabwe. He’s good, he is intelligent.” Mapfumo also said Tsvangirai’s heroism was unquestionable, “You don’t question about that. Tsvangirai is a hero.”
Johannesburg-based political analyst Joy Mabenge of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition says though it would be very difficult for the MDC to fill Tsvangirai’s big boots as he was a charismatic man of the people.
Political science lecturer, Shakespear Hamauswa of Mulungushi University in Zambia says the death of Tsvangirai will unsettle the opposition party ahead of the crucial 2018 elections.
“The passing on of Dr. Richard Morgan Tsvangirai is something that has saddened the country, the whole nation the whole southern Africa. We are looking at the supporters of Morgan Tsvangirai who are now in deep mourning. They were expecting their leader would lead them into new Zimbabwe. Tsvangirai fought for democracy, fought for human rights and the people were expecting that he was going to overcome this cancer disease, but unfortunately he has gone to a better place and the people of Zimbabwe are saying to Morgan Tsvangirai he fought a good fight and he left a legacy that will definitely remain in the hearts of Zimbabwe.” He has left an indelible mark that cannot be erased by anyone. His name has a place in the history of Zimbabwe, especially in the struggle for democracy and human rights.”
Chamisa concurred with Hamauswa, saying “it’s such a sad loss, a tragic loss, particularly in the context of elections in the next four or five months, because we have always said that the president, president Morgan Tsvangirai, has been the best foot forward, in terms of our fighting chance, in terms of winning the elections in 2018 now this unfortunate development is obviously a very sad and huge blow on the democratic movement, on the party, of excellence and also on the country, it’s such a sad day, particularly in the context of African democracy, president Tsvangirai was one of the few icons on the continent who worked tirelessly to give Zimbabweans a chance for an alternative.”
He added that Tsvangirai was a courageous leader, “A charming father, a caring citizen, a genuine democratic a very considerate patriot. Whatever he did, he did not keep grudges, he did not do things on his own, he would consult as much as possible, he maintained the tenacity of a fighter in whatever he believe in. He led us so well, he continued to inspire hope, and he was the face of courage. Service and sacrifice, were his traditional hallmarks and as a trade unionist, he liked consensus, he liked the working of people together, he like the comparison of views to say which ever is the best view let it flow.”
In a press statement, former vice President vice president Joice Mujuru, who is now the leader of the opposition National People’s Party also praised the late Tsvangirai, “We salute you son of the soil. You fought your excellent battle for the good of mankind. Your name shall forever remain written in the annals of Zimbabwe’s struggle for democracy.” Mujuru added, “The history of Zimbabwe cannot be fully written post-independence without mentioning the heroic and brave deeds of Doctor Morgan Richard Tsvangirai in fighting for our beloved Zimbabwe under his able leadership of the MDC-T.”
The late Tsvangirai was only one of the very few African leaders who were invited to the White House in 2009 by former America President Barack Obama who praised him for his resilience. “Well, I want to welcome Prime Minister Tsvangirai to the Oval Office.” Added President Obama, “He and his delegation have been meeting with my team throughout the day. I obviously have extraordinary admiration for the courage and the tenacity that the Prime Minister has shown in navigating through some very difficult political times in Zimbabwe. There was a time when Zimbabwe was the bread basket of Africa and continues to have enormous potential. It has gone through a very dark and difficult period politically. The President - President Mugabe -- I think I've made my views clear, has not acted oftentimes in the best interest of the Zimbabwean people and has been resistant to the kinds of democratic changes that need to take place.”
On the same trip, Tsvangirai had the opportunity to meet then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who also recognized the work he was doing in Zimbabwe. “Well, I’m delighted to welcome the prime minister back to Washington. We had very productive meetings last time when he was here. We continue to support the efforts for reform and positive changes inside Zimbabwe. And of course, the prime minister has played a major role in attempting to move his country on the right path.”
The US and British embassies in Harare, Gaborone and Nairobi government also sent condolence messages to the Tsvangirai family and saluted his struggle for democracy.
The executive director of the US Based nonprofit Vanguard Africa, Jeffrey Smith also paid tribute to Tsvangirai on twitter. “Go well and rest in power, Morgan Tsvangirai. His steadfast courage and willingness to stand tall against one of the most repressive regimes on the African continent should be applauded. He pushed
#Zimbabwe's pro-democracy struggle further than anyone. He will be missed by many.”