The best way to remember the late President of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Morgan Tsvangirai, is to keep his legacy of fighting the rule of law and democratic governance in Zimbabwe. The MDC leadership needs to unite to keep that legacy alive.
On 15 February 2018, I got up to the news that our leader, President Morgan Tsvangirai, of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had passed on the previous night. As is my custom, I had gotten up to do some reading on developments in our country and around the globe. I had just completed reading about political developments in South Africa, which eventually culminated in President Jacob Zuma tendering his resignation in the aftermath of the political pressure from his own party, the African National Congress and South Africans as a whole. It was in those circumstances that I saw a special report to the effect that our leader had left us.
Now, I am only an ordinary man and I am not qualified to write authoritatively about our dear departed leader. I believe there are people who are more qualified to do so than I am. Nonetheless, I know he influenced us in a number of ways and personally, he left an indelible imprint on my mind and there never has existed a single individual in the history of Zimbabwean politics, who has had this sort of impression on me. There have been great leaders in Zimbabwe but still; Tsvangirai was that towering political figure “… the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie” (John 1: 27).
Tsvangirai has exited the Zimbabwean political scene that he so enriched. It is sad that he left at a time when we needed him most. However, “Good men must die, but death cannot kill their names” (Proverb). We are confronted with watershed elections in 2018 and the MDC Alliance had entrusted Tsvangirai with its leadership. It is my humble expectation that the alliance leaders, namely; Nelson Chamisa, Tendai Biti, Welshman Ncube, Jacob Ngarivhume and any other sincere and committed politician that I might have omitted, will carry on with the struggle till its logical end is realised. And, you can, therefore, very much imagine the sadness and grief that is associated with a profound loss of this nature. Personally, I am shaken and deeply hurt.
In September 1999, I was a mere 16-year old boy doing Form 3 at Hermann Gmeiner Secondary School in Bindura, Mashonaland Central when the MDC was formed. Following the formation of the party, it had a felt presence in Mashonaland Central province where atrocities would later be committed against members of the newly-formed MDC by rotten, malodorous and unscrupulous elements of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party then led by coup ousted President Robert Mugabe. ZANU PF is that political party that has been single-handedly responsible for the socio-political and economic destruction of our country.
Because of its felt presence in Mashonaland Central province and other provinces across the country, the MDC instantly became a vibrant political entity that inspired generations of people whose lives had been minimised by the whimsical actions of ZANU PF. By the time of the February 2000 referendum on the Zimbabwe Constitution, the MDC had become the party of choice for students, workers, and intellectuals. Its great showing in the bloody June 2000 parliamentary and March 2002 presidential elections could be partly attributed to its ability to organise and mobilise under Tsvangirai’s able leadership. Even in the face of adversity, the MDC did extremely well in the harmonised elections of March 2008 thus forcing Mugabe and the military to thwart any possibility of a free, fair and credible runoff election in June 2008. You are morbidly aware, readers, of the untold atrocities that our people had to go through towards that sham election of June 2008. The peace and brief improvement in our lives experienced between February 2009 and July 2013 was because Tsvangirai was a just Zimbabwean politician upon whose merit Zimbabwe was kept from entire destruction.
Since its formation in 1999, the MDC made it possible for young people like myself to believe that we had something to offer to our country. It was people like Tsvangirai who inspired that hope and service to our country. Thus, despite his departure, we remain political zealots with deep faith that the MDC will change our lives for the better. This is the dream that saw Tsvangirai and others like him sacrifice so much so that we may all be proud of our country again after it had been ruined by the likes of Robert Mugabe and Emmerson Mnangagwa who replaced his mentor via a military coup. Tsvangirai has left, but the struggle isn’t complete. He played his part and urged us to unite. In Tsvangirai, I saw a humble servant of our people. He worked tirelessly to dry our tears. He showed compassion and shouldered our burdens with humility. Although gone, his legacy lives on. Tsvangirai has left behind a committed and dedicated life and a light that will remain lit on the paths of men.
Going forward, his suitable replacement is needed and I have taken note of the recent scrambling for his position. In his later days, three centres of power had emerged in his party and there can be no doubt whatsoever that Chamisa is Tsvangirai’s desired replacement. This is something that the party has since affirmed following his death. There are, however, elements that were opposed to the unity that Tsvangirai fostered. These Janus-faced politicians are sowing divisions just to destroy the party that Tsvangirai worked so hard to unite and build. If not careful, Elias Mudzuri, Thokozani Khupe, Douglas Mwonzora and Obert Gutu may as well be seeing the end of their political days. I see them falling, no more to rise. Their political obituaries might have come with Tsvangirai’s death.
After all is said and done, we need to fight the next election as a united party and in honour of all those we have lost and others who bear the scars of this struggle for freedom, justice and democracy. Sincere condolences to the Tsvangirai family and all democrats who were inspired by the selfless life of service that Morgan Tsvangirai lived. May his soul rest in peaceful repose! The struggle continues unabated!
*Mutsa Murenje writes from Newcastle, Australia