Zimbabwe’s veteran opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, 65, has returned to Johannesburg for further medical treatment. File picture: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP

Zimbabwe’s veteran opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, 65, has returned to Johannesburg for further medical treatment, according to Zimbabwe newspaper, The Daily News. 

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) that he has lead for 19 years, has not made a statement and its leaders are not answering calls.

Tsvangirai has colon cancer, which he received treatment for last year in Johannesburg. He had several rounds of chemotherapy. He recovered well, and the MDC said the cancer was caught early.

He suddenly became ill last month during his arduous programme of around-the-country negotiations to create an anti-Zanu-PF coalition ahead of next year’s elections. 

Tsvangirai has reunited with former comrades who split from the MDC, which cost him and his party an outright victory at elections in 2008.

MDC spokesperson, Douglas Mwonzora said recently that it was better for Tsvangirai to seek medical treatment in South Africa because he could feel confident that he would not be harassed by Zimbabwe’s state security agents.

Veteran MDC MP, Eddie Cross, was criticised by many leaders in the MDC when he wrote a column recently saying that Tsvangirai was seriously ill and that there were doubts he could lead the party in next year’s elections.

The MDC is broke. Tsvangirai has little cash and does not have an international medical aid. His health costs in South Africa are met by political supporters, not the Zanu-PF government, as some claim.

The MDC owned considerable funds from the state because it is the official opposition and many of its leaders continue to work for the party without pay.

MDC insiders are “anxious” about Tsvangirai, according to one senior member in Harare. Not only about Tsvangirai’s health, but about who will lead them in next year’s elections as there appears to be no popular succession plan in place and the party has several factions.

Tsvangirai is the longest surviving opposition politician in Zimbabwe and captured the imagination of voters when his pro-democracy party emerged from the trade unions and civil society. 

This came after the virtual one-party state in place since President Robert Mugabe quickly crushed the first opposition party, the Zimbabwe African People's Union (Zapu), and killed thousands of its members, shortly after independence.

Hundreds of MDC supporters and activists were killed, jailed, tortured since the party emerged late 1999, and tens of thousands had their homes destroyed, or had to flee their villages and even more left Zimbabwe to escape harsh economic times. Only a handful of perpetrators of political violence against Zapu and MDC have ever been charged or been through the courts since 1980 independence.

The Daily News claims Tsvangirai is “critically” ill but says he was able to walk to the aircraft on Wednesday, and was accompanied by his wife, Elizabeth.

Independent Foreign Service