Mandy Rossouw

The (hard) life and times of Morgan Tsvangirai

2011-12-06 15:22

Mandy Rossouw

Life has not been easy for Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai since he took office last year. His decision for the MDC to join government has led to accusations of being co-opted by Zanu-PF and the change that his election campaign in 2008 promised turned out to be a damp squib.

But the latest series of sex scandals he is involved in may turn out to be the biggest challenge to his authority yet.

Last year Tsvangirai, whose wife died in a car accident in 2009, fell in love again. Problem is, the object of his affection comes from a Zanu-PF family. Her sister is a Zanu-PF MP and she has been linked to senior Zanu-PF officials.


Despite warnings from advisors to play it safe, Tsvangirai did the opposite and a few weeks ago he was forced to pay damages or lobola (depending on who you believe) for putting the woman “in the family way”, as Zimbabweans call impregnating a woman, and promising to marry her.

His flip-flopping response to the issue was shocking. First he said he did not get married, and then claimed to have divorced after 12 days. Then he claimed political motives to be behind the way his wedding came into the public eye. And with even president Robert Mugabe weighing in on the matter – telling people to leave Tsvangirai alone regarding his private life – Tsvangirai may have a point. Some around him insist Locadia Tembo was a honey-trap, a plot to ensnare Tsvangirai and make him look like a sell-out.

Others say Zanu-PF got involved in the drama when they realized his relationship could win them brownie points with voters, and therefore the scoops about his love life all came via the state-owned media.

To make matters worse, he told guests at a wedding this weekend he is the chairman of the Widowers’ Association, to show that his marital status is still that of a man who lost his wife.

Several other women

In-between all of this several other women stepped into the fray, claiming they have relationships with the Prime Minister. One woman from Bulawayo took Tsvangirai to court, claiming the Prime Minister is the father of her three-month old son.

Tsvangirai moved quickly to put out this fire, and an out-of-court settlement was reached to shut her up.

Like our own president Jacob Zuma, Tsvangirai has found no matter how much people claim to love you, there are some boundaries never to be crossed. Or if you do cross them, keep it quiet.

The Zimbabwean society is, for the most part, a deeply conservative one. Tsvangirai had experience of this when, a few months ago, he said while on an overseas trip that he sees nothing wrong with gay marriages. The outrage that met him when he returned home showed that the society he rules is not as progressive as he might have hoped.

Most Zimbabweans are avid church-goers. On Sundays the towns and cities shut down for people to attend either the Anglican church, which still has a large following despite the anti-imperialist rants by president Robert Mugabe, or the phenomenon of charismatic churches which attracts a younger crowd.

Dented credibility

Newspaper editorials and letters pages – of both the state-owned and independent media – are crammed with disappointment and outrage about the kind of example Tsvangirai sets for his followers. A leader is human, yes, but he is still held to a higher standard than an ordinary man on the street.

Although Tsvangirai’s indiscretions are probably not going to lead to impeachment, it will dent his credibility at a time when he needs all the support he can get.

No-one in Zimbabwe doubts that in a free and fair elections Zanu-PF will lose at the ballot box, no matter how many mistakes the MDC had made. Zanu-PF’s latest election trick is an empowerment campaign where foreign companies have to hand over half their shares to local people. Although most of these shares will be gobbled up by those in power, Zanu-PF hopes that the little bit that will trickle down to ordinary people will win them votes.

So voters with some money in their pockets, courtesy of Mugabe, may be less keen to vote for an aged philanderer who clearly has other things on his mind than ruling the country. And then Tsvangirai will have fewer excuses when the ballot shows that he has been fired.

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Read more on:    mdc  |  zanu-pf  |  morgan tsvangirai  |  zimbabwe

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