Zimbabwe Opposition Leader Morgan Tsvangirai Dies Aged 65

Morgan Tsvangirai

Hundreds of mourners have gathered outside the Movement for Democratic Change -T (MDC-T) party headquarters following news of the death of its leader, opposition veteran Morgan Tsvangirai.

Zimbabwe's new President Emmerson Mnangagwa lauded his party's arch-rival as "a strong trade unionist and opposition leader" and vowed free elections in honour of Tsvangirai who was assaulted, jailed and humiliated under his ZANU-PF government.

Tsvangirai, 65, who had been battling cancer since 2016 died at a Johannesburg hospital where he had been receiving treatment.

South Africa helped broker a power-sharing deal and Tsvangirai was sworn in as prime minister in February 2009.

It is sad for me to announce that we have lost our icon and fighter for democracy.

In the 2008 polls he won against Mugabe though not with outright majority leading to a run-off election.

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Over the years, he was arrested repeatedly and accused of treason and plotting to assassinate the President, among other charges, but was never convicted. "I considered him a champion and distinguished political leader of the Second Liberation of Zimbabwe", the statement read in part.

The African National Congress in Zimbabwe's southern neighbor, South Africa, sent its sympathies.

"I know that is what he wanted, we do not want to damage his legacy", Lilian Timveos, an MDC senator, told AFP.

Tsvangirai addresses an MDC rally in Mutare in 2000. Tsvangirai's death will certainly weaken an already struggling opposition movement in Zimbabwe.

Mr Tsvangirai's death was confirmed to The Telegraph by a family member. The family was poor, and Tsvangirai abandoned formal schooling early to start work, first as a textile weaver and then as a plant foreman in a nickel mine. But while they chose armed resistance from exile in the front-line states bordering what was then Rhodesia, Tsvangirai became a labour union leader, defending workers' rights and rising through the ranks.

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