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  • Morgan Tsvangirai remembered: brave, heroic, flawed

    By Tony | February 16, 2018

    Morgan Tsvangirai was brave, to many heroic, and a great human rights defender, he also had flaws.

    Morgan Tsvangirai was a miner who became a trade union leader who challenged the economic policies of Robert Mugabe and the ruling Zanu PF in the mid-1990s. The economic policies he challenged was the economic structural adjustment programme pushed on Zimbabwe by the IMF which was causing increasing hardship, reducing employment, weakening public services. Morgan Tsvangirai’s opposition to these policies led him to become increasingly critical of the authoritarian rule of Robert Mugabe who made no secret of his wish for Zimbabwe to be a one party state and for the president to have greater powers. Tsvangirai became a leader of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) a civil society body comprising trade unions, churches and ngos which argued for a more citizens rights based constitution and against proposals for a more centralised and controlling state. Out of the NCA a new political party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) emerged and Morgan Tsvangirai became its life-long leader.

    Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC was the biggest political challenge Mugabe and Zanu PF had faced since independence in 1980. Tsvangirai was badly beaten, arrested, harassed, and attempts were made on his life. He remained steadfast in his support for human rights, a more inclusive, open, fairer Zimbabwe. He was almost certainly deprived of being President of Zimbabwe by electoral fraud, if not in 2002 then in 2008.

    The first round of the 2008 presidential election showed he had a commanding, many thought decisive lead but the announcement of the result was mysteriously delayed for over a week. It was eventually announced Tsvangirai had 48% and Mugabe 43% meaning there would have to be a run-off. Zimbabwe then experienced its worst violence since the massacres in the mid-1980s. The MDC was not allowed to organise or campaign, there were killings, disappearances, arrests and harassment. Tsvangirai felt he had no option but to withdraw leaving Mugabe as the sole candidate.

    Regional mediation by Thabo Mbeki, then president of South Africa, led to the formation of an inclusive government in 2009 with Tsvangirai as Prime Minister and Mugabe as President. Zanu PF used the period 2008-2013 to regroup, re-organise and in government Tsvangirai and other MDC ministers found the institutions of the state were so politicised in support of Zanu PF they lacked real power.

    In 2006 MDC witnessed its first major split. Many blamed Tsvangirai for this saying he initially showed no leadership on a key issue and it was only when the MDC conference decided its position did he come out against and say he would not accept it. He took a majority of members with him and hence the MDC he led became MDC T (the T is for Tsvangirai). Without that split a united MDC may have won the 2008 election so decisively it could not have been stolen from it.  After the MDC lost quite heavily in 2013 Tsvangirai would not countenance stepping aside and further splits occurred. The opposition to Zanu PF became more fragmented and its main challenge became its internal politics.

    In the past year however the three main MDC groupings signed a unity pact and agreed Tsvangirai would be their candidate for President. It was clear though that he was seriously ill. He had cancer but claimed his treatment was working. He was convinced he was the only one who could defeat Mugabe and even after Mugabe was forced from office Tsvangirai thought he was the only one who stood a chance of winning against Zanu PF. He had charismatic appeal especially to youth in urban areas. They admired his bravery, his courage, his willingness to take on Mugabe. In his last few months he would not allow the MDC to discuss and agree on a successor. There is a real risk that the MDC (T) will split into competing factions.

    Morgan Tsvangirai will be remembered, celebrated, for his leadership on human rights, against corrupt and authoritarian rule, for a more inclusive Zimbabwe. There will though also be questions about his leadership style and the unanswerable what if, the MDC had not split? The elections had not been rigged?

    Morgan Tsvangirai changed Zimbabwe. He changed its politics. He refused to accept authoritarian rule. He gave Zimbabweans hope and courage.

    Morgan Tsvangirai born 10 March 1952 died 14 February 2018.

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    Zimbabwe Update Issue 1/15

    By Mark | January 9, 2015

    This edition of the Zimbabwe Update focuses on the ongoing struggle for the leadership of Zanu PF, the merger of two of the three MDC parties, and the release of the 2002 Khampepe Report in South Africa, concluding that the elections cannot be considered free and fair. It also covers the resumption of EU government to government aid, the latest UK trade delegation to Zimbabwe, the establishment of the Zimbabwe Reconstruction Fund, the abduction and beatings of human rights activists and protestors, the bulldozing of hundreds of homes near Harare and heavy rains cause flooding in many areas. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Zimbabwe Update: Issue 3/2014

    By Mark | August 7, 2014

    Zimbabwe one year on

    This special edition of the Zimbabwe Update, a year after the 2013 elections, focuses on Zanu PF being seen as ‘the only game in town’, the Catholic Commission of Justice and Peace’s report on the 2013 elections, and who will succeed Robert Mugabe as leader of Zanu PF? It also looks at division in the MDC, the US Africa Summit, Mugabe’s promotion to chair of SADC, EU and UK relations with Zimbabwe, fears of another recession and uncertainty in Read the rest of this entry »

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    Zimbabwe Update: Issue 2/ 2014

    By Mark | June 3, 2014

    This edition of the Zimbabwe Update focuses on the split in Zimbabwe’s largest opposition party, the MDC-T; the European Union- Africa summit, which was boycotted by President Mugabe; Zimbabwe’s increasing debt and worsening economic situation; government challenges to pay its own workers; a new military loan from China; the new electoral amendment bill; police blocking a World Media Day rally, and a report from Chatham House on the west re-engaging with Zimbabwe which has provoked criticism and comment. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Zimbabwe: After elections what next?

    By Mark | December 1, 2013

    Mcdonald Lewinika, Director, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition 

    For the better part of the last decade and a half, Zimbabwe seems to have been embroiled in an unending tragedy. From the economic crises of the late 90’s to the political dilemmas and tragedy of modern day Zimbabwean politics, it seems the land locked country is caught between the devil and the dark blue sea, with little indications for hope and a nation, filled with Read the rest of this entry »

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    UK government: Zimbabwean Court ruling not credible without independent investigation

    By Mark | August 23, 2013

    Foreign Secretary says Zimbabwean Court ruling is not credible without independent investigation. Strong evidence that elections fell short of SADC guidelines.

    Foreign and Commonwealth Office

    Following the announcement by the Zimbabwean Constitutional Court that the presidential election result should stand and President Mugabe can be inaugurated, the Foreign Secretary William Hague said:

    “I am extremely concerned that the Read the rest of this entry »

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    Zimbabwe elections: preliminary reports

    By Mark | August 3, 2013

    On 31 July 2013 Zimbabwe held presidential, parliamentary and local authority elections. The following statements have been released on the conduct of the elections by election observers, civil society organsiations and international bodies. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Zimbabwe elections update: Civil society group say elections calm but credibility seriously compromised by flaws in voter registration and the voters roll

    By Mark | August 1, 2013

    Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network: 2013 Harmonised Elections Preliminary Statement
    01 August 2013 – Holiday Inn, Harare

    Summary

    The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) as part of its comprehensive effort to observe the 2013 Harmonised elections deployed over 7,000 observers to every province and constituency in the country. Generally the environment was Read the rest of this entry »

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    Zimbabwe: Ruling sets fear among civic groups

    By Sarah | March 22, 2012

    Mail & Guardian, 22 March 2012

    Activist Munyaradzi Gwisai emerged from court pumping a defiant fist in the air. His conviction, with five of his colleagues, on charges of plotting to topple Robert Mugabe may silence some of the president’s critics.

    The group was arrested last year after police raided the venue of what the activists said had been a discussion on the possibility of an Egypt-style mass protest in Zimbabwe. Read the rest of this entry »

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    SA demands reforms in Zimbabwe before polls

    By Sarah | March 6, 2012

    Mail & Guardian, 5 March 2012

    South Africa on Monday dismissed a push by Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe for new polls without long-delayed reforms required by the country’s unity deal.

    International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said Pretoria expects the power-sharing pact, known as the global political agreement (GPA), to be fully in place with a new constitution approved by referendum before new elections. Read the rest of this entry »

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