Nduduzo Tshuma, Political Editor
President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday mourned the death of MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai who died in a South African hospital on Wednesday after a battle with cancer of the colon.
Mr Tsvangirai (65) who revealed in 2016 that he had been diagnosed with cancer of the colon was admitted to the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre (WDGMC) since early January when he left the country to seek treatment.
Before that, President Emmerson Mnangagwa accompanied by his deputy General Constantino Chiwenga (Retired) visited the MDC-T leader in a move that was hailed by many Zimbabweans.
Mr Tsvangirai had since 2016, been visiting the hospital for what his aides called routine treatment.
“On behalf of the ruling Zanu-PF party, Government, our nation and that of my family, I wish to express the deepest condolences to the Tsvangirai family on the sad passing yesterday evening of Morgan Richard Tsvangirai, the former Prime Minister of Zimbabwe and leader of the MDC-T party,” said President Mnangagwa in a statement.
“A strong trade unionist and opposition leader, the late Tsvangirai will be remembered especially for his readiness to stretch and reach out across the political divide for a Government of National Unity after the polarizing 2018 elections.”
The President called for unity in the Tsvangirai family so that the MDC-T leader is given a dignified send off.
“As we join the Tsvangirai family in mourning the dear departed, we pray that the whole family remains united to give the deceased a dignified send off. Consultations are underway in Government and with the family to determine what else Government needs to do to accord the departed a befitting honour,” he said.
President Mnangagwa said during and after the GNU, Tsvangirai remained a national figure who obdurately insisted on free, fair, credible and non violent elections as a way of strengthening the country’s democracy and overall re-engagement with the rest of the world.
“Whatever other controversial decisions he and his MDC-T party may have made in the past, we all remember him for his insistence on free, fair and peaceful elections which we must validate in the forth coming 2018 harmonised elections in tribute to him and to our democracy,” he said.
“This we owe him as political leaders of all contesting parties in our country which deserves unfettered peace and stability.”
President Mnangagwa said he will soon be inviting leaders of all opposition parties for a day long consultative meeting as part of building a political consensus in the country ahead of the harmonized polls.
“Indeed the ethic of overarching collaboration above fair and peaceful political contestation must be cultivated and entrenches into our national politics for all times,” he said.
Posting on his Twitter account at 9pm on Wednesday, one of Tsvangirai’s deputies Engineer Elias Mudzuri said the party joined the Tsvangirai family in mourning the former Prime Minister.
“As you are aware that our MDC-T President, Dr Morgan Richard Tsvangirai has not been feeling well for some time, it is sad for me to announce that we have lost our icon and fighter for democracy. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, the party and the nation at this hour,” he posted.
MDC-T chairman Mr Lovemore Moyo said Tsvangirai left a void that would be difficult to fill in the MDC-T.
“I think you will appreciate that he had been diagnosed with cancer that is why he had been travelling to South Africa for treatment. What has happened is God’s wish, God has decided to take him away,” said Mr Moyo.
“We are saddened as a party and I am also saddened in my capacity as party chairperson. We join the Tsvangirai family in mourning because he was not a father figure only to them but to us as a party so they are not alone in this moment of pain.
Mr Moyo challenged the remaining party leadership to work towards uniting the party in honour of Mr Tsvangirai’s legacy.
MDC leader Professor Welshman Ncube who is also the MDC Alliance spokesperson said they had received the death of Mr Tsvangirai’s death with shock and confusion.
“At the moment we are still in shock, somewhat numb and devastated by such an untimely death,” he said.
Prof Ncube said Tsvangirai’s death came at a time when they had unanimously agreed that Mr Tsvangirai would lead the MDC Alliance, a coalition of opposition parties, in this year’s elections.
Prof Ncube extended his condolences to Tsvangirai’s wife Elizabeth and the rest of the Tsvangirai family following the MDC-T leader’s death.
Tsvangirai’s former advisor and academic Dr Alex Magaisa also took to Twitter expressing his sadness following the death of the MDC-T leader.
“It’s a dark day. Morgan Tsvangirai lost his brave battle with cancer this evening. The heart breaks with pain. It was a rare privilege and an honour to have the confidence of this icon of the democratic struggle. My thoughts are with his family,” he posted.
Tsvangirai’s death comes at a time his party is imploding due to escalating infighting.
Eng Mudzuri and fellow deputy president Nelson Chamisa are locked in a bitter tussle for the post of acting president of the party.
The third deputy president Dr Thokozani Khupe had also added to the chaos by declaring herself the rightful person to succeed Mr Tsvangirai.
On Tuesday Adv Chamisa held a Standing Committee meeting as the MDC-T acting president.
Eng Mudzuri was set to hold his yesterday but was barred from Harvest House by forces reportedly loyal to Adv Chamisa.