Tsvangirai again a thorn in Mugabe's side

2013-07-29 08:24

Harare - This Wednesday Morgan Tsvangirai will get his third crack at dethroning veteran Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe.

It may be his last.

In 14 years at the helm of the Movement for Democratic Change, the 61-year-old ex-trade unionist, has made his party the only credible alternative to Mugabe's Zanu-PF.

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In consecutive elections in 2002, 2005 and 2008 Tsvangirai has run Mugabe close.

Last time out he won 47.9% of the vote to Mugabe's 43.2%.

In a fair race, he may well have won outright. But an orgy of violence against allies forced him out of the hunt before the final round of voting.

For his troubles Tsvangirai has been arrested repeatedly, been charged with treason and faced four suspected assassination attempts.

In 1997 assailants tried to throw him out of his office window.

His bodyguard has been killed and his wife died in a suspicious car crash that also hospitalised him.

He retains a strong following among urbanites and Zimbabweans in rural of the western part of the country.

But even among supporters, there is a lingering sense that Tsvangirai has repeatedly been outmanoeuvered by Mugabe, even when the international community forced Mugabe to accept him as prime minister.

Do-or-die election

After more than four years of a forced unity government, most meaningful levers of power - from the security services to the judiciary - remain under Mugabe's control.

Tsvangirai has been criticised for offering Mugabe legitimacy by participating in polls that have repeatedly been rigged - and for failing to mobilise mass protests that could shift the terrain in his favour.

And on his watch, the MDC has split into two rival factions, draining energy and valuable votes.

He has managed to forge an alliance with Simba Makoni, a former finance minister and senior official of Mugabe's party, who came third in the first round of the 2008 elections.

"This will be a do-or-die election for him," said Eldred Masunungure, a political scientist at the University of Zimbabwe.

"After being at the helm of the party since September 1999, if he loses, then surely he must consider dropping the hat for someone else."

While he is widely seen as a champion of democracy, recent scandals surrounding his love life, including a public divorce, have put a dent in his popularity.

He "gets distracted by a whole lot of things, including personal issues", said South African analyst Moeletsi Mbeki, who has known Tsvangirai since the 1980s.

The does little to help strengthen his fight especially facing a "very powerful adversary" like Mugabe.

"Morgan has been learning on the job while fighting against... Mugabe [who] is the one of the cleverest politicians in Africa."

"I don't have the 'I-will-not-go' attitude"

Mbeki thinks that "in fact Morgan has done reasonably well given the lack of experience he started off with".

The teetotal, non-smoking Tsvangirai rose to political prominence via the trade union movement.

After working for 10 years at Bindura Nickel Mine he became leader of the country's largest labour federation, spearheading national strikes in the 1990 against Mugabe's economic policies.

He was born in 1952, the son of a bricklayer in the southern town of Gutu, as the oldest of nine children.

He grew up in the eastern district of Buhera but family poverty forced him to quit school early and earn a living to enable his younger siblings to get an education.

Unlike most of Zimbabwe's politicians of his age and older, Tsvangirai did not take part in the Chimurenga liberation war against white colonial rule.

He was 28 when Zimbabwe won independence from Britain in 1980.

Under Mugabe's rule, he was detained twice for his political activism and was twice cleared of treason charges.

In March 2007, he was among dozens of opposition activists assaulted by police as they tried to stage an anti-government rally, and suffered head injuries.

Just three weeks after taking office as the premier, his first wife Susan died in a car crash that also left him hospitalised.

There are increasing signs his long struggle has taken its toll.

"I don't have the 'I-will-not-go' attitude. When my days are done, I will go and leave these young ones [to it]," Tsvangirai told thousands of supporters on Sunday.

For all Zimbabwe election stories please visit our Zimbabwe Special Report Page.

  • TinavoMagaisa - 2013-07-29 08:37

    Probably the most balanced article on Zimbabwe by News24.

      Tinavo Zanu - 2013-07-29 10:09

      If it were balanced it would highlight the 4% of the vote he got last time that magically disappeeared while the ZEC spent 30 days "auditing the results"

      TinavoMagaisa - 2013-07-29 10:30

      Really, it had to appear first before it vanished so where did it appear first? In your mind? Morgan himself accepted the percentage he got that time. His complaints were on violence, not on the number he got.

      Tinavo Zanu - 2013-07-29 10:46

      No, they clearly release press statements at the time claiming that they had tallied the individual results posted outside polling stations and captured on camera and these showed him with 51% of the vote and an outright victory. They were going to declare victory until the security establishment threatened to charge them with an attempted coup with potential death penalty. Tendai Biti was even arrested when he came back from South Africa. NOte - in every civilised democracy once projections are final people declare victory. The evidence was incontrovertible, but once again the puppet supreme court, stuffed with justices appointed in the last ten years by mugabe and headed by the ultimate puppet chidyausiku refused to hear the case after the electoral court had also refused to hear the case. Please explain to me how in round 2, Mugabe got 85% of the vote with the SAME number of people casting their ballot as in round 1, when Morgan had boycotted? Do you think 1 million zimbabweans changed their minds and voted for mugabe two months later? How stupid do you think we are??? Troll

  • Twolips - 2013-07-29 08:59

    C'mon Zimbabweans, do the right thing and vote Mugabe out!

      TinavoMagaisa - 2013-07-29 09:08

      Thats not for you to tell us. such statements reinforce the mentallity that Morgan is not his own man, but a front for some people.

      Wekunetsa Münétsié - 2013-07-29 13:23

      the right thing for me is to vote for Mugabe. leave Zim issues to Zimbos.

  • Denis Gomo - 2013-07-29 09:20

    I just wonder how many Zim "patriots" have begun their trek back home to vote from the comfort of SA. Commenting on an SA website while ensconced in the comfort of a foreign land will not bring about the change they desire....time for action.

      TinavoMagaisa - 2013-07-29 10:33

      Well said Denis, and the same people would be the first to complain when their party of choice loses. It was shocking how many people went to register on the last day of registration but ignore doing so in the past 2 months.

      Tinavo Zanu - 2013-07-29 10:42

      Tinavo - In 1999 they used to send teachers around to all houses to register people to vote. Now they make everyone go to registrar general. This exercise has been deliberately made as difficult as possible for people to register in urban areas. Open your eyes

  • Wekunetsa Münétsié - 2013-07-29 13:29

    don't you have anything better about Zim to report about honestly it's the same story everyday with a different headline.:-D

  • Todd Manopolous - 2013-07-29 13:33

    Viva Zanu pf Viva.kikikiki!!! I have all my bottles of Champagne ready for celebrating a Mugabe victory.

  • Pedzisai Kelvin Chiwazeni - 2013-07-29 15:05

    Tsvangirai does deserve this now this man came a long way besides we need change lets hope he's going to win

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