His supporters are telling one another in Zimbabwe to brace themselves for information that he is “never going to get better”.
Tsvangirai, 65, is with his family in Joburg and has been there for three months.
His health deteriorated quite quickly in the last few days and he is struggling to breathe.
He was operated on for cancer in South Africa in 2016 and has had several rounds of chemotherapy.
Tsvangirai, who was the prime minister in Zimbabwe’s inclusive government from 2009-2013, recently met President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the first time since he launched the MDC that the ruling party has treated him with some courtesy.
Under former president Robert Mugabe, he was regularly insulted, personally, and massively abused by the state-controlled media and mocked mercilessly by Zanu-PF leaders.
Tsvangirai failed to win elections in 2008 when he did not get more than 50% of the vote, but he had easily beaten Mugabe in the first round.
During the run-up to the second round, there was so much violence that he pulled out of the poll.
It was then that South Africa, under then president Thabo Mbeki, began to implement plans for an inclusive government.
Tsvangirai went into it even though it was heavily weighted in Mugabe’s favour.
He and others in the MDC had said they were going into it to “save” the country because all hospitals, schools and supermarkets were either closed or empty as the Zanu-PF administration allowed hyper- inflation to wreck the economy.
Many believe that Tsvangirai was the bravest of all the post-independence leaders who took on Zanu-PF, which made it clear, shortly after independence, that it wanted a one-party state.
Tsvangirai’s brothers, his children and his second wife, Elizabeth, are with him in Joburg.
- Foreign Service