Campaign News
The beating heart of hypocrisy – Zimbabwe Vigil Diary: 26th May 2018 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 27 May 2018 16:18

The hypocrisy at the heart of the Zanu PF regime was exposed by President Mnangagwa’s son Emmerson Jr in a graphic interview he gave in Harare to the London Sunday Times veteran foreign correspondent Christina Lamb about his father’s escape from attempts by the Mugabes to kill him.

He said: ‘There were six break-in attempts, no police investigation; he was hit by a car and they tried to kill him, no investigation; he was poisoned, no investigation; they put cyanide in his office, no investigation; all his projects as vice-president were sabotaged, and ministers were not reporting to him.’

Emmerson Jr said his father refused to believe that the Mugabes were out to get him until he was given a vanilla ice-cream cone at a Zanu PF rally last August and was violently ill. He was airlifted to South Africa where doctors identified arsenic. The ice-cream allegedly came from Grace’s dairy.

When Mugabe sacked Mnangagwa on 6th November, Emmerson Jr and two of his brothers drove to their father’s house. He said all security had been removed. ‘People were phoning to say, they’re coming to arrest you and will put you in a police station and poison you or hang you and make it look like you committed suicide,’ Emmerson Jr said.

He said he and his father took to the mountains to cross the border into Mozambique, passing through a landmine area, after being stopped at gunpoint at a border checkpoint. From their hiding place in Beira, they were rescued by a friend in South Africa who sent a plane to pick them up and take them to Pretoria where they hid in a small flat ‘living off takeaways from Nandos’.

The article continues: ‘Their guards told them a bounty of $10m (£7.4m) had been put on their heads and that 50 Zimbabwean intelligence agents had been sent to South Africa to search for them.’ (See:

Emmerson Jr’s account portrays his father in an heroic light and mainly blames Grace for his troubles. But the Vigil is puzzled why Mnangagwa still pays lip service to the myth of Mugabe as the Great Leader, declaring a national holiday in his honour. At the same time, the new Mnangagwa regime claims it has abandoned all Mugabe’s ideological baggage and seeks to cozy up to the formerly-despised ‘Western imperialist racist neo-liberal rapacious capitalists’.

The Vigil is not surprised that Mnangagwa is finding it hard to sack Deputy Finance Minister Terence Mukupe who warned the opposition that the army would never allow anyone but Zanu PF to rule – this from a man accused of fuel smuggling and assaulting a top official in his office and is currently being sued by a Chinese business for an unpaid bill. But how can Mnangagwa sack him when he himself proclaims that Zanu PF will rule forever?

With Mugabe ignoring the will of Parliament to account for his actions and apparently plotting against Mnangagwa, isn’t it time to drop the pretence and finally disown the poisonous Mugabe heritage which has reduced Zimbabwe to penury and destroyed so many lives?

 Other points

  • Mugabe is reported to be backing the new National Patriotic Front Party, which is complaining to the Southern African Development Community and the African Union that, following the military coup, the situation in Zimbabwe is not conducive to free and fair elections (see:
  • Today we held a demonstration against voter intimidation and election violence in Zimbabwe. Thanks to Esther Munyira for organising this demonstration.
  • Thanks to those who came early and helped set up by putting up the banners: Isaac Chawasarira, Junior Madzimure, Rosemary Maponga, Patricia Masamba, Esther Munyira, Patience Muyeye and Jennifer Senzere. Thanks to Rosemary, Patricia and Isaac for looking after the front table, and to Patience, Rosemary and Isaac for handing out flyers.

For latest Vigil pictures check: Please note: Vigil photos can only be downloaded from our Flickr website.

FOR THE RECORD: 15 signed the register.


  • Cycle ride for the Human Rights Defenders’ Project. Vigil activist Sipho Ndlovu will be cycling 219 miles from 28th May – 2nd June to raise funds for the Human Rights Defenders’ Project of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. Sipho will cycle through 6 cities: Luton, Cambridge, Colchester, Chelmsford, Southend-on-Sea and back to London. To donate, visit:
  • MDC London branch meeting. Saturday 2nd June from 12 noon to 2 pm. Venue: Royal Festival Hall. For more information, contact: Sharon Moyo 07877224113 and Clemence Munyukwi 07889667686.
  • ROHR fundraising walk. Saturday 9th June. This will be a sponsored fundraising walk ending at the Vigil. Proceeds will go to pre-election voter education by the Zimbabwe Peace Actors’ Platform (ZimPAP). More information as plans develop. If you wish to take part or contribute, contact: Daizy Fabian 07708653640.
  • ROHR Central London branch meeting. Saturday 16th June from 11.30 am – 1.30 pm. Venue: Royal Festival Hall, Contact: Daisy Fabian 07708653640, Maxmus Savanhu 07397809056, Sipho Ndlovu 07400566013.
  • The Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHR) is the Vigil’s partner organization based in Zimbabwe. ROHR grew out of the need for the Vigil to have an organization on the ground in Zimbabwe which reflected the Vigil’s mission statement in a practical way. ROHR in the UK actively fundraises through membership subscriptions, events, sales etc to support the activities of ROHR in Zimbabwe. Please note that the official website of ROHR Zimbabwe is Any other website claiming to be the official website of ROHR in no way represents us.
  • Save the Zimbabwe elephants protest. Friday 15th June from 1 noon – 2 pm outside the Zimbabwe Embassy. One of our activists Nomusa Dube is organising a protest about the export of baby elephants from Zimbabwe to China. She asks Vigil activists to join her at this protest. 
  • The Vigil’s book ‘Zimbabwe Emergency’ is based on our weekly diaries. It records how events in Zimbabwe have unfolded over the past 15 years as seen by the diaspora in the UK. It chronicles the economic disintegration, violence, growing oppression and political manoeuvring – and the tragic human cost involved. It is available at the Vigil for £10. All proceeds will go to the Vigil and our sister organisation the Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe's work in Zimbabwe. The book is also available from Amazon.
  • Zimbabwe Action Forum meets regularly after the Vigil to discuss ways to help those back in Zimbabwe to fight oppression and achieve true democracy.
  • Zimbabwe Yes We Can Movement holds meetings in London as the political face of ROHR and the Vigil.
  • Facebook pages:


Grace Mugabe’s vendetta against her ‘snake’, Emmerson Mnangagwa PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 27 May 2018 12:25

Zimbabwe’s new leader had to flee for his life when Grace Mugabe tried to destroy him. His son reveals how he survived

Christina Lamb, Harare May 20 2018, 12:01am, The Sunday Times

The old man sitting on a briefcase at a bus stop in the Mozambican city of Beira was covered in dirt, his shoes in tatters. No one gave him a second look. Yet his briefcase was Louis Vuitton and inside were a passport, a wad of dollars and a letter to Robert Mugabe, who had sacked him. Two days earlier, Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, had been one of the most powerful people in Zimbabwe. Now he was a “very vulnerable man, dirty, sick and betrayed”, in the words of his son. 

Father and son had spent the night on foot, crossing rocky mountains, and dodging snakes, Mugabe agents, bandits and landmines, in a dramatic flight from Zimbabwe revealed in detail for the first time to The Sunday Times.


Their great escape set off a chain of events that ended in the fall of Mugabe after 37 years and Mnangagwa’s installation as president. The extraordinary story reveals how narrowly Zimbabwe’s new leader got away with his life from the machinations of those around Mugabe’s ambitious wife, Grace.


Mnangagwa, known as the “Crocodile”, had been Mugabe’s right-hand man for decades when he became vice-president in December 2014, putting him in pole position to succeed the nonagenarian head of state — and into dangerous contention with Grace Mugabe and her supporters in the Zimbabwean regime.


That was when the trouble started, his son Emmerson Jr, 33, recounted last week: “There were six break-in attempts, no police investigation; he was hit by a car and they tried to kill him, no investigation; he was poisoned, no investigation; they put cyanide in his office, no investigation; all his projects as vice-president were sabotaged, and ministers were not reporting to him.”


He said his father refused to believe that the Mugabes were out to get him — until he was given a vanilla ice-cream cone at a rally of the governing Zanu-PF party last August, and was violently ill. He was airlifted to South Africa where doctors identified arsenic. The ice-cream allegedly came from Grace’s dairy.


She denied allegations of poisoning, but hurled accusations and insults at Mnangagwa, denouncing him as a “snake”. “We saw my dad break down piece by piece,” said Emmerson Jr.


Mnangagwa was frequently visited, however, by General Constantino Chiwenga, the head of the Zimbabwean military, who “would come and offer his shoulder to Dad”. The two men had known each other since the 1970s liberation war against the Rhodesian government. Chiwenga would play a crucial role in the endgame of this drama.


Emmerson Jr believes the turning point was a rally last November 4 in Bulawayo, when Grace was loudly booed after insulting his father. Mugabe, incensed, publicly warned Mnangagwa, saying, “I can drop him tomorrow.”


Around 4pm two days later, he did so: Mnangagwa was fired. Emmerson Jr and two of his brothers, Sean, an army officer, and Collins, an engineer, drove to their father’s house. All his security had gone.


“People were phoning to say, they’re coming to arrest you and will put you in a police station and poison you or hang you and make it look like you committed suicide,” Emmerson Jr said.


“So my brothers and I told him it’s not safe for you to be here. Usually he didn’t take us seriously, but to our surprise he said, ‘OK, let’s get in the car and go.’” They took temporary shelter in an unfinished house one of their other brothers — Mnangagwa has 18 children — was building in a Harare suburb. Plans to escape in a private jet fell through. Plan B was medical evacuation.


Overcoming Mnangagwa’s resistance — “Dad kept saying, ‘I’m not sick’” — they got a doctor to write a letter authorising the evacuation. In a bizarre act of subterfuge, it had to be smuggled out of the lavatory window of a Chinese restaurant, as Mugabe’s agents were everywhere.


By then, however, the airport was swarming with police. The only escape route left was by road. Around midnight, with a cousin who came along to help, the Crocodile and his sons began the three-hour journey southeast to Mutare, near the frontier with Mozambique. They hid in an abandoned lodge the Crocodile knew from his days in the liberation war and were first in line when the Forbes border post opened at 6am.


Their passports were checked with no problem, but at the next checkpoint for clearance of the car, security agents realised who was in it and began to delay.


“Dad said, ‘I know only too well what this means, they are calling for backup to come and arrest me,’” said Emmerson Jr. “That’s when all hell broke loose.”


The cousin with them made a commotion to distract the guards while Mnangagwa sneaked out of the car and tried to escape, followed by his sons. He was 50 yards from an exit gate when an officer started screaming at the guards manning it: “Shoot, shoot, shoot!”


Sean shouted at his father to run and dashed to block the guards’ line of fire.


“We were lucky because the police on the exit gate had to get their weapons,” said Emmerson Jr. “They cocked their AK-47s very loudly and my brother jumped in the way and held the two barrels against his chest. I was terrified they would blow him up.”


In the commotion Mnangagwa fled with Collins to a mountain cave the old man knew from his war days. “Dad was talking to himself a lot, as if he couldn’t believe what had happened to him, that the order had gone out to kill him.”


Sean and Emmerson Jr escaped on foot before commandeering a taxi to Mutare, where they hid in “an old car wash” as the streets were crawling with police. “Every car was being stopped and searched.”


Emmerson Jr managed to link up with his father again, and they decided to try to reach Mozambique on foot. They secretly contacted local officers from military intelligence — which Mnangagwa used to run — who arranged a guide to the border, and for a taxi to meet them there.


Around 10pm they set off, sneaking past Marymount Teachers’ College on the edge of Mutare. Father and son were still in the business suits and shoes they were wearing when they had fled Harare.


“It was terrifying,” said Emmerson Jr. “So many times we had to duck because we could see searchlights, hear dogs, and see the patrol cars. My dad was in front of me on his belly doing the army crawl in the tall grass. I am a businessman and couldn’t do it, so just crouched down.


“He’s 76 this year, a man who had just been poisoned and didn’t have his medicines, he’s old, his blood pressure up, I was worried but I couldn’t keep up.”


Because of the police, the guide used an alternative route, which made the journey much longer, and missed the taxi rendezvous on the border. Tramping up and down the granite mountains in their formal shoes in the dark was tough. “We were slipping and sliding, and coming down we had to walk sideways to brake. I was so tired, I remember praying to God, just give us 100m of walking upright. Dad fell a couple of times and I was so sad.”


Suddenly they came to an area flagged with banners warning of landmines. Mozambique is one of the most heavily mined countries on earth. “We stood there deciding what to do. The area seemed to stretch for miles, so there was no way to go round it. I was happy to stop for the first time and get some rest.


“Dad looked at me said, ‘Give me 30 metres head start and try to see where I step.’ I thought, dude, these are landmines and it’s dark, how am I going to see? But he set off and we followed and somehow we were not blown up.”


There was more danger. Emmerson Jr had forgotten he had left his phone on and the flashing in his back pocket attracted attention. “Suddenly there was this Renamo bandit with an AK-47 which he pointed at my dad’s head.” Renamo was the losing side in Mozambique’s civil war decades ago but its remnants linger on. Mnangagwa handed over $2,000.


They walked on in darkness through rivers up to their bellies, past villages where dogs barked at them and into a banana plantation where it became clear they were lost. “It was full of snakes and mosquitoes and we were getting desperate when suddenly we heard the noise of a small motorbike just above us.”


They walked up and found a road. “We were so happy.” It was around 5am, so they stopped to rest. “Dad sat under a mango tree but I couldn’t sit because my legs were shaking. He said, ‘Young man, in the war I used to walk to Zambia from Mozambique — this is nothing.’”


They walked on to the nearest town, Manica. “We found a very old motel, $6 a night, all of us in one room, I remember Dad sat on the filthy bed and took off his shoes, and his socks were ripped and his toes bleeding and wet because of the mud. I almost cried, seeing him like that.”


Mnangagwa, however, was able to call Justice Maphosa, a wealthy Zimbabwean businessman based in South Africa, who offered to send a plane to Beira, a 170-mile taxi ride from Manica.


By 6pm they were in Beira airport, only for immigration officers to disappear with their passports. “We were freaking out. Dad said it makes sense: Mozambique intelligence work with Zimbabwe intelligence. We presumed they were calling back up.”


Then the pilot, a young white South African, arrived. “He didn’t know who we were — just thought we were clients and was furious with the immigration. Eventually this large man appeared with all these badges and seven men. We thought he was going to arrest us, but instead he apologised that he hadn’t been expecting a plane and had gone to his village, locking the computer so his men couldn’t scan our passports.”


On the plane, Emmerson Jr lay down to sleep, exhausted. “That’s when Dad says something very strange: ‘You wanna die in your sleep?’”


Mnangagwa told his son: “If I was Zimbabwe security, I’d shoot this plane down. Tomorrow it would always be a mystery what happened, just like the death of [Mozambique’s former president] Samora Machel, maybe it was the mountains or the weather . . .”


His son looked at him in horror. “We were on the runway about to take off and I’ve never been so scared in my life. All I could think about was my wife and kids. I’m thinking what distance can a missile or bullet hit, and I asked the pilot, please, go as high as you can.”


After just over an hour, they reached an airport near Pretoria. To their dismay, the tarmac was full of police cars. “We thought they were there to arrest us, so I said, Dad, let me go and speak to them, so at least there are no cameras when they arrest you.” It turned out, however, that they were escorting a visiting dignitary.


Maphosa was waiting with a phalanx of Afrikaner security guards in black Range Rovers with no numberplates which whisked Mnangagwa and his son to a one-bedroom flat in a Pretoria township. For the next two weeks they hid there, the curtains closed, living off takeaways from Nando’s.


Their guards told them a bounty of $10m (£7.4m) had been put on their heads and that 50 Zimbabwean intelligence agents had been sent to South Africa to search for them. Emmerson Jr started looking for countries where they could seek asylum. Maphosa came to pray with them every day and brought dozens of mobile phones that they could use and then discard to avoid bugging.


Mnangagwa called his old comrade, General Chiwenga, who had been visiting China when they escaped — and was still there. Emmerson Jr was suspicious. “I thought he must have been part of the plan against Dad, as why hadn’t he come back but continued with his schedule?”


When Chiwenga did return to Harare, however, Mugabe sent police to the airport to try to arrest him. “Then I knew he was not part of the plan.”


Two days later they got a call in the early hours in Pretoria to say tanks were on the streets of Harare and the Mugabes were under arrest. “We were so happy — me and the security guys were high-fiving each other,” Emmerson Jr said.


Their apartment had a small TV and they watched in astonishment as hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans took to the streets demanding Mugabe’s exit and Mnangagwa’s return. Soon he was getting calls from party officials and generals, discussing how Mugabe could be persuaded to step down.


Then Mugabe himself was on the phone. “Dad was very respectful. I heard him say, ‘If you don’t know what to do, listen to the people — the voice of the people is the voice of God.’ I heard him saying, ‘I have nothing to do with this, how can I tell people to go marching in the streets from here?’”


Three days later, November 21, Mugabe resigned and Mnangagwa was named president. The following day, he and his son flew home to be met by huge crowds. Mnangagwa’s posters for Zimbabwe’s forthcoming elections proclaim: “The voice of the people is the voice of God.”

Of course you're going to vote. It's a clear case! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 18 February 2018 08:07

From Cathy Buckle 16 February 2018

Dear Family and Friends,


Zimbabwe has just heard news of the death of Morgan Tsvangirai, a man who had become a beacon of hope in Zimbabwe for the last two decades. Founder and leader of opposition party MDC, Mr Tsvangirai will be remembered as a brave man who made extreme sacrifices to try and bring an end to oppression and dictatorship. He taught us to stand up for what we believe in and all eyes now are on his party and whether they can put personalities aside for the good of our country.


Trying to stand up for what I believe in, I recently went, yet again, to try and get myself back on the voters roll. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve come to a voters’ registration centre since 2005 after my right to vote was denied because my parents were not born in Zimbabwe and I was declared an ALIEN.    


Despite it being the last day of the “mobile voter registration mop up exercise” I had expected a queue but in fact was the only person in the registration office. It was a typical run down, government office with dirty walls, chairs with torn upholstery and exposed springs and electrical cables running all over the floor.  Greeted by a friendly, polite and welcoming official from ZEC (the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) I had a large brown envelope with my life in it: originals and photocopies of everything that proves I am who I say I am. They only wanted three things and I laid them out on the table: birth certificate, ID and proof of residence. As the documents were inspected I closed my eyes, hardly daring to breathe. Born in Southern Rhodesia, Zimbabwe Identity document and a utility bill for proof of residence.


“It’s a clear case” the ZEC official said, instructing her colleague to fill in the voters registration form. My eyes flew open and for a moment I couldn’t believe what was I was seeing. Line by line they filled in my details: name, address, phone number, ID number and then passed the form across for me to sign. “Am, I going to vote this time?” I asked; “I’ve been denied since 2005.”“Of course!” she said, ”everything’s changed now. You were born here and you live here. It’s a clear case!” There was much laughing and smiling and she handed me my papers and directed me to go to the next desk to have my details entered into the biometric registration computer , have my photograph taken and be given my voters bar code slip.


Then in an instant everything changed. Suddenly someone from the DA’s (District Administrator) office came in and asked for my original birth certificate, proof of residence and ID card. “To check your details,” he said.


The minutes dragged by: ten, twenty, thirty, until finally, forty minutes later the man came back, returned my documents and said I could not be registered to vote because my parents came from Europe. “But I was born here and have lived here all my life?” I said. “The constitution says I am automatically a citizen if I am born in the country.” My pleas were in vain, the official wasn’t budging on his declaration that I was not eligible.


Euphoria turned to anger very quickly. The ZEC official had declared my eligibility and processed my registration but now suddenly a local government official was over ruling it. “You need to see the Registrar to explain that because your parents were not born in Zimbabwe you are not eligible.”Unless I could prove that my father was a citizen of Zimbabwe when I was born, the Registrar said, then I was not eligible. I explained that my father had been dead for over twenty years and providing proof of his citizenship was now impossible. “My father lived in Zimbabwe for over fifty years,” I said, “actually he was a civil servant and in fact he was a Magistrate in this very town.” The Registrar wasn’t interested; unless I had proof my father was a citizen when I was born, I was not going to vote. It wasn’t  my father trying to vote, it was  me, but that apparently meant nothing.


Enraged, I left, went back to the voters’ registration office, demanded my form back from the ZEC officials and tore it up. “A clear case?” I asked. No one said anything; how could they, they too had been over-ruled. With my hands shaking and tears stinging, I was almost out of the gate when another ZEC official ran out after me, took my details and said he wanted to help me and would look into my case. He also thought I was eligible but phoned later; he had consulted with legal advisors who said I was not eligible because I could not prove my parents were citizens of Zimbabwe when I was born.


My excitement over the approach of a New Zimbabwe had been replaced by a great sadness. How many times must I be made to feel I do not belong in the country of my birth? How many thousands of others have also been turned away? Do any of the current crop of political wanabees give a damn?  


Love Cathy 16 February 2018


Morgan Tsvangirai Obituary PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Saturday, 17 February 2018 11:28 

16 February 2018

Courageous Zimbabwean politician who risked his life to lead the struggle against Robert Mugabe’s tyrannical regime for two decades

In 1997 Robert Mugabe’s thugs burst into Morgan Tsvangirai’s tenth-floor office in Harare and tried to push him out of the window. He was saved by his secretary’s screams, but left lying in a pool of blood.


In 2002 a doctored video surfaced of Tsvangirai purportedly plotting with a former Israeli intelligence agent to assassinate Mugabe. For two years he faced a possible death sentence, until a judge acquitted him.


In 2007 the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was arrested and beaten so badly that his skull was cracked. Photos of his bruised and bloodied face shocked the world.


Tsvangirai had plenty of human frailties, but he did not lack courage. Stocky and charismatic with a strong baritone voice, he led the opposition to Mugabe, the liberation hero who became a tyrant, for two decades. He was imprisoned and beaten. He was vilified as a western stooge in the state-controlled media and enjoyed little support from other African countries because he was challenging one of the continent’s iconic independence leaders.


Tsvangirai did not abandon the struggle, however, and he would undoubtedly have become president had Mugabe not stolen three elections by rigging the vote and suppressing the opposition. “I will soldier on until Zimbabwe is free,” he wrote in 2007. “Far from killing my spirit, the scars they brutally inflicted on me have re-energised me. I seek no martyrdom. I only seek a new dispensation in my country in which citizens live freely in prosperity and not in fear of their rulers.”


The most egregious theft occurred in 2008, when the regime unleashed such a violent onslaught against the MDC and its supporters that it became known as “chidudu” (the fear). Tsvangirai finally withdrew from the contest to stop the bloodshed but the international outcry was so great, and Zimbabwe’s economic plight so desperate, that Mugabe’s South African patrons forced him to form a national unity government with the MDC.


Tsvangirai served as prime minister for four years and Zimbabwe enjoyed a brief respite from the worst of Mugabe’s depredations but the arrangement served the old “crocodile” well. It gave his Zanu-PF party time to regroup and tarnished the MDC. International attention moved on. Mugabe stole the next election with virtual impunity. Thereafter the opposition was divided, disorganised and demoralised, and Tsvangirai was afflicted by cancer.


Morgan Richard Tsvangirai was born in the village of Buhera, 130 miles south of Harare, in 1952, the eldest of nine children. He attended missionary schools and gained eight O levels, but was forced to start work to support his siblings before he could do his A levels after his father, a labourer, died when he was in his teens. For the same reason, he took a job in an elastics factory in Umtali rather than join the liberation struggle at a time when African nationalism was sweeping the continent and war against white minority rule had erupted in Zimbabwe.


Two years later he won an apprenticeship at a nickel mine owned by Anglo-American in Bindura, northeast of Harare. He remained there for ten years, rising through the ranks to become a plant supervisor, and married Susan Nyaradso, with whom he had six children: Garikai, who moved to Canada; Vimbai, who left for Australia; Rumbidzai, who has a degree in finance; and Edwin and the twins Vincent and Millicent, who all live in South Africa.


Tsvangirai wrote of Susan in his autobiography: “There would be times in the future when she literally restored me to life and health after vicious assaults and supported me and many others through thick and thin while we faced trials, persecution and false accusations. Truly, a man was never so blessed in a life partner.”


Midway through his time in Bindura, Zimbabwe gained independence and Mugabe became the country’s first democratically elected prime minister. At that time Tsvangirai regarded Mugabe as a hero and joined the victorious Zanu-PF. “I would have laid down my life for him,” he said later.


Tsvangirai also joined the Associated Mine Workers Union. He became a branch chairman, was appointed to the national executive in 1983, and three years later moved his family to Harare to become a full-time vice-president of the union. In 1989 he became secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), and his disillusionment with Mugabe took root as the increasingly authoritarian government failed to improve the lot of ordinary workers.


Under Tsvangirai the ZCTU ceased to be an appendage of Zanu-PF and became one of the ruling party’s strongest critics. While Mugabe highlighted Tsvangirai’s failure to fight in the liberation struggle, the leader of the MDC was seen as having the common touch. A teetotaller who did not smoke, he lived simply in a suburb of Harare and drove an old, battered Mazda, a far cry from lifestyles of the ruling elite.


He was detained for six weeks for supporting a student demonstration against government corruption. After that he orchestrated a series of strikes against the government’s economic policies. The thugs tried to push him from an office window after he organised a nationwide strike against a punitive tax increase.


By then the economy was deteriorating and the full horrors of Mugabe’s massacre of opponents in Matabeleland in the 1980s had begun to emerge. Tsvangirai and other civic leaders responded by forming the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) to press for radical reforms.


Two years later the NCA mutated into the MDC, which was launched in September 1999 before 20,000 exuberant supporters at Harare’s Rufaro stadium, the scene of Zimbabwe’s independence celebrations 19 years earlier. Its watchword was “chinja” (change); its symbol the open hand, the antithesis of Zanu-PF’s clenched fist.


The MDC grew rapidly and scored its first significant victory in February 2000 when voters decisively rejected a proposed new constitution designed to strengthen Mugabe. The referendum was the first defeat of Mugabe’s political career and he responded with the brutal repression that would become his trademark. Before the parliamentary elections four months later he unleashed his thugs and security forces, seizing nearly 1,000 white-owned farms to disperse a huge potential reservoir of MDC supporters among the country’s one million black farmworkers and their families.


Scores of MDC supporters, including two of Tsvangirai’s campaign staff, were killed and thousands beaten in what he called a “devil’s carnival”. The MDC still won 57 of the 120 elected parliamentary seats, but not the one Tsvangirai contested in his native Buhera. He challenged that result, and 30 others, in court, but to no avail.


The farm seizures continued, destroying the very cornerstone of Zimbabwe’s economy and paving the way for the hyperinflation that would reach 500 billion per cent a few years later. So did the repression.


Three months after the election the MDC’s headquarters was attacked with grenades. A week later Tsvangirai’s office was ransacked. In January 2001 the printing presses of the opposition Daily News were blown up. Tsvangirai was accused of inciting terrorism after he warned of violence if Mugabe did not step down. The Supreme Court acquitted Tsvangirai, but he was subsequently charged with the capital offence of treason in a bizarre attempt to force him out of the 2002 election.


The charge centred on a scarcely audible video that purportedly showed Tsvangirai discussing Mugabe’s assassination with a former Mossad agent named Ari Ben-Menashe in a hotel in Montreal, Canada. Although the film had clearly been manipulated, the charge hung over Tsvangirai for two years before he was acquitted.


Despite that, Tsvangirai did contest the 2002 presidential election. It was characterised by the same brutality, intimidation, poll-rigging and media propaganda. He was shot at, stoned and arrested as he sought to campaign across the country. Mugabe was declared the winner with 1,685,212 votes to Tsvangirai’s 1,258,401. Tsvangirai called it “the biggest electoral fraud in history” and most international observers agreed. Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth.


Undaunted, and rejecting advice that he leave the country for his own safety, Tsvangirai continued to lead the opposition to Mugabe as Zimbabwe’s economy began to implode.


In 2005 Zanu-PF increased its parliamentary majority in another sham election. To punish urban constituencies that voted MDC Mugabe ordered his security forces to demolish the slums of Harare and other cities, destroying the homes and livelihoods of 700,000 Zimbabweans in an operation dubbed Murambatsvina (“Remove the Filth”).


A few months later Tsvangirai suffered another blow when the MDC split after he overruled a decision by the party’s national council to contest Senate elections; although he fought tirelessly for democracy, he certainly had an authoritarian streak. Then, in March 2007, he was hauled from his car by police and, with several other MDC activists, beaten with iron bars until he lost consciousness. Two days later he was released with a fractured skull, prompting international condemnation.


The 2008 presidential election was worse than any before. It took place against a background of hyperinflation, 80 per cent unemployment, nationwide hunger and the collapse of public services. Desperate for change, voters elected 99 MDC MPs, giving it control of the legislature for the first time. But the regime suppressed the results of the presidential election for five weeks before announcing that Tsvangirai had won with 47.9 per cent, compared with Mugabe’s 43.2 per cent — leaving him short of the 50 per cent required to avoid a run-off. Although Tsvangirai considered the results to be fraudulent, he had little choice but contest the run-off.


The regime then unleashed a savage onslaught against the MDC and its supporters. Hundreds were killed. Thousands were tortured. “When those who survive, terribly injured, limp home, or are carried or pushed in wheelbarrows, or on the back of pick-up trucks, they act like human billboards, advertising the appalling consequences of opposition to the tyranny,” Peter Godwin wrote in a book entitled The Fear, on those three brutal months.


Tsvangirai fled to neighbouring Botswana, fearing for his life. He finally returned but found campaigning impossible. Finally, to avoid further bloodshed, he withdrew from a contest that he called a “violent sham”, leaving Mugabe to coast home unopposed.


In the subsequent government of national unity, which was forced on Mugabe by the South African president Thabo Mbeki, Tsvangirai served as prime minister and cabinet posts were shared between Zanu-PF and the MDC. But Mugabe benefited much more than Tsvangirai from the deal.


The Zimbabwean dollar was abolished, ending hyperinflation. A semblance of fiscal sanity was restored. The humanitarian crisis eased. But the MDC and its ministers were inevitably tainted by government while Mugabe reneged on promises, thwarted reforms and kept tight control of the security and intelligence services. “He saw us as a temporary lifeline to enable him to rise from an abyss,” an outmanoeuvred Tsvangirai wrote in his memoir.


His tangled love life also attracted unwelcome headlines. Shortly after becoming prime minister, his wife of 31 years was killed in a car crash from which he emerged with only minor injuries. He married Elizabeth Macheka in 2012, a year after Locardia Karimatsenga Tembo, a businesswoman and sister of a Zanu-PF MP, claimed that he had married her in a traditional ceremony. There were reports of other girlfriends and of at least one love child.


By 2013 the world had wearied of Zimbabwe’s seemingly endless troubles. Zanu-PF was able to rig that year’s elections with little international outcry and the country returned to one-party rule. Although Tsvangirai remained Zimbabwe’s most popular politician, he was past his peak.


The MDC soon split for a second time after his bitter falling-out with Tendai Biti, the party’s secretary- general. Having become fond of the trappings of power, Tsvangirai continued to live in the luxurious government house that he had occupied as prime minister. He even allowed the Mugabe regime to finance some of his treatment in South Africa for the colon cancer that eventually killed him.


In the end, it was not Tsvangirai who toppled Mugabe, but Emmerson Mnangagwa, the dictator’s loyal henchman for the previous 37 years, who declined to form another national unity government. Tsvangirai’s last chance to lead his country away from the darkness of the Mugabe era had gone.


 Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwean politician, was born on March 10, 1952. He died of colon cancer on February 14, 2018, aged 65

Zimvigil Petition: UK Government to require new Zimbabwean regime to account for Gukurahundi genocide PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 14 February 2018 13:54

The Zimbabwe Vigil is petitioning the UK Government to require new Zimbabwean regime to account for Gukurahundi genocide. The petition reads: Zimbabwe has reportedly been encouraged by the UK Government to apply to rejoin the Commonwealth. Zimbabweans in exile in the UK, and supporters, urge the UK not to support readmission until the ruling Zanu PF satisfactorily addresses the genocide of some 20000 Ndebeles in the 1980s. A simple apology would be a start but we believe an independent truth and reconciliation process offers the best hope of healing the still bleeding wounds.You can sign the petition here:

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