Morgan Tsvangirai, at age 65, Zimbabwean opposition leader
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.