Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe’s most popular opposition leader since independence, is seriously ill and may not be able to lead his Movement for Democratic Change party at next year’s elections.
This was said in a post written by veteran MDC MP Eddie Cross on Monday.
Tsvangirai arrived in South Africa from Zimbabwe suddenly ill last month and was hospitalised here. He is still in South Africa.
He was diagnosed early this year with colon cancer and had surgery and chemotherapy. At the time it seemed the disease was under control and he could be expected to make a full recovery. But now, Cross says, his colon cancer is serious.
Cross writes that Tsvangirai’s illness was “not fair".
He recalls: "Morgan Tsvangirai stuck to his principles, refusing to allow violence or retribution, even when abandoned by his closest colleagues, he carried on, he has suffered constant propaganda attacks and worse. His wife, the light of his life, was killed in what many of us believe was a hit in the form of a staged accident….Without financial support he has often gone without and has been unable to pay his essential staff who have simply gone on working without pay.
“Now….., he is suffering from an aggressive form of colon cancer. He has been struggling with his treatment and the family is concerned that he might not handle the election and subsequently the responsibility of being president of a country in a deep crisis. After a lifetime of principled struggle, to have it all threatened by a disease in your body, is not fair...Life can be a bastard at times,” Cross writes.
Tsvangirai has been supported and helped with medical expenses by friends and supporters in South Africa.
He has been arrested and assaulted repeatedly since he began his work to reform and grow Zimbabwe’s trade union movement after independence.
His MDC which emerged from the trade unions and civil society 17 years ago came within three seats of winning its first elections in 2000 when the party was just nine months old, but thereafter Zanu PF and its supporters, including members of the army, killed, arrested, tortured thousands of supporters.
The MDC was often unable to hold rallies and many potential supporters told the media time and time again that they were too frightened to support the MDC. Many fled the country. Many were jailed. And all but a handful of the assailants was ever arrested or tried in court.
Tsvangirai and the MDC did win elections in 2008 but in the run-off hundreds of his supporters were killed and he withdrew a week before polling day.
At that point even former SA president Thabo Mbeki concluded Mugabe had not won the one candidate run-off in the presidential poll, and he went on to help establish a government of national unity which was heavily weighted in Zanu-PF’s favour.
- Independent Foreign Service