Mor­gan Ts­van­gi­rai, at age 65, Zim­bab­wean op­po­si­tion leader

Boston Herald - - OBITUARIES -

JO­HAN­NES­BURG — Zim­bab­wean op­po­si­tion leader Mor­gan Ts­van­gi­rai died yes­ter­day at age 65, end­ing a long cam­paign to lead his coun­try that brought him jail­ings, beat­ings and ac­cu­sa­tions of trea­son.

Mr. Ts­van­gi­rai died yes­ter­day evening in a Jo­han­nes­burg hospi­tal, said Elias Mudzuri, a vice pres­i­dent of the Move­ment for Demo­cratic Change party. The op­po­si­tion leader had been bat­tling colon can­cer for two years.

Mr. Ts­van­gi­rai for years was long­time ruler Robert Mu­gabe’s most po­tent chal­lenger and even be­came prime min­is­ter in an un­com­fort­able coali­tion gov­ern­ment for a few years. Mu­gabe, 93 and in power for 37 years, re­signed in Novem­ber after pres­sure from the mil­i­tary and rul­ing party.

In Jan­uary, the ail­ing Mr. Ts­van­gi­rai sug­gested that he would be step­ping down, say­ing he was “look­ing at the im­mi­nent prospects of us as the older gen­er­a­tion leaving the levers of lead­er­ship to al­low the younger gen­er­a­tion to take for­ward this huge task.”

His death leaves the op­po­si­tion in dis­ar­ray just months be­fore na­tional elec­tions. An op­po­si­tion al­liance had en­dorsed him as its can­di­date, even as his deputies tus­sled to act as party leader while he was out of the coun­try for treat­ment.

Those power strug­gles are now likely to in­ten­sify, which may give an edge to the rul­ing party, ZANU-PF, and its can­di­date, Pres­i­dent Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa.

“We are still mourn­ing. This is not the time to talk about that,” MDC party spokesman Obert Gutu said.

Mr. Ts­van­gi­rai came tan­ta­liz­ingly close to the pres­i­dency in 2008 when he won the most votes in the elec­tion. But the re­sults, de­layed nearly a month as Mu­gabe’s of­fi­cials “ver­i­fied” the count, gave him just 47 per­cent, shy of the more than 50 per­cent ma­jor­ity needed to win out­right. Mr. Ts­van­gi­rai boy­cotted the runoff, cit­ing wide­spread violence against his sup­port­ers, hand­ing Mu­gabe the victory.

Ne­go­ti­a­tions then led to the coali­tion gov­ern­ment, an un­easy al­liance that ended in 2013 when Mu­gabe won elec­tions amid charges of in­tim­i­da­tion and rig­ging.

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