The Ides of Morgan Tsvangirai
March 11, 2009, 19:57
Filed under: Politics, Southern Africa, Zimbabwe News | Tags: , ,

Yesterday was supposed to be a celebration of his 58th birthday. Instead, Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai attended a memorial service for Susan, his beloved wife of 31 years.

At the service conducted at the family’s Methodist church Mr Tsvangirai sat and listened while Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe told the congregation: “It will take him time to recover from this shock. I plead with you to accept it, it’s the hand of God.” Considering Mugabe’s arrogance means he believes himself to be more powerful than any person or divine entity, one could be forgiven for thinking his choice of words could be a confession of sorts… or perhaps there is a shred of humanity in the monster betraying the fear he must surely feel as “leader” of a nation he’s brutalised for most of his 29 year rule. I wonder how Mugabe must feel, knowing most people believe he, not God, had a hand in the accident that killed Mrs Tsvangirai.

A Capetonian friend spoke of her horror at the camera’s in Mr Tsvangirai’s hospital room. Just a few hours after the accident he was filmed, lying in his hospital bed while Mugabe visited him. It was a veritable rogue’s gallery – Mugabe’s wife Grace, together with vice president Joice Mujuru, Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono and a dozen security personnel all crowded into the room with him. Unfortunately, I know the Avenues Clinic all too well, and I think visitors are restricted to just four per patient. And so soon after admittance? But then rules don’t apply to Robert Mugabe. I cannot imagine how dreadful it must have been for Mr Tsvangirai to come face to face with the man who has, on several occasions, tried to eliminate him. The most serious:

1997 – during his tenure as head of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions unknown assailants tried to throw him out of the window of his tenth floor office. They were interrupted by his secretary.

2002 – a second treason trial collapsed after claims emerged Mugabe’s ZANU PF had paid Ari Ben Menashe, $2 million to frame Mr Tsvangirai, by filming him asking Menashe to help him arrange Mugabe’s “elimination”.

2007 – on March 11, while on his way to a prayer meeting, Mr Tsvangirai was arrested, taken to a police station and severely tortured. He was beaten so badly his injuries required hospitalisation. A freelance cameraman who released photographs of the injuries sustained in the police station was abducted a week later, and his body found at Darwendale Dam, 60 km outside Harare. Mr Tsvangirai’s bodyguard died from internal injuries six months later.

2008 – in May European security agents discovered an advanced assassination plan to kill Mr Tsvangirai when he returned to Zimbabwe later that month. Consequently he remained in Europe until it was considered safe for him to return.

Today Susan Tsvangirai was buried at her home in the tiny village of Humanikwa, in Buhera District. 5,000 mourners gathered to pay their respects. Some walked 60 kilometres to attend her burial service. Others, including her husband and their six children, drove along the same road where the accident occurred. Some people stopped at the site of the crash, getting out of their cars to see if they could discern what had caused the USAID lorry to swerve into the Tsvangirai’s Land Cruiser. Several countries, including Kenya, Botswana and South Africa, sent representatives. Mugabe did not attend.

Yesterday 10,000 people gathered at Glamis Stadium in Harare, where Mrs Tsvangirai’s coffin was taken after the church service. Members of Mr Tsvangirai’s MDC party paid tribute to their leader’s wife. The couple’s oldest son, Edwin, thanked Mugabe for a speech he said “changed our understanding of him (Mugabe).” Her husband, grief etched all over his face, only asked: “Let’s celebrate her existence as God’s gift to me and to you.”

On a personal scale I marvel at just how much Morgan Tsvangirai has suffered and endured in his quest for a democratic Zimbabwe. I don’t know many people who could – and would – remain so committed to his principles and ideals after so much personal suffering. For this I admire and respect him. He still lives in the same three-bedroomed house he lived in when he first came to prominence some twelve years ago.

History has rightly cast Nelson Mandela a symbol of the struggle to end colonial rule and apartheid in Africa. I believe history will portray Morgan Richard Tsvangirai as a symbol of true African democracy – an icon in the struggle to end the dictatorial rule of liberation movements who believe they have the right to oppress and destroy their people simply because they succeeded in removing the colonial powers. It’s a tough role to take on, but if anyone can do it Morgan Tsvangirai can.


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