Thousands of people, dressed in the Movement for Democratic Party’s red party gear, thronged Harvest House in Harare on Thursday following the death of the 65 year-old iconic leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who succumbed to cancer of the colon at a hospital in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
Most of them cried uncontrollably, saying his death has robbed Zimbabwe from becoming a democratic state. Some were sceptical that the party will have the power to beat Zanu PF in the forthcoming crucial general elections to be contested by Zanu PF’s president and first secretary Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was helped by the Zimbabwe Defence Forces to remove Robert Mugabe from power.
One mourner, David Chonzi said Zimbabwe has been dealt a huge blow.
“Basically for the nation it’s a great loss. This shows that this man was a visionary and a person who had the people at heart, the general populace. For the country’s democracy it still has a long way to go, it is not yet here and he has left a void.
Chonzi said Tsvangirai’s shoes will be hard to fill. The MDC-T leader had, since 1999 following the formation of the Movement for Democratic Change, tried to unseat Mugabe.
Edgar Gweshe, a journalist who has covered MDC for decades, said, “He has got a well-known record of fighting for democracy in the country and it’s very sad that he had to die before he had accomplished his mission. But at the same time I think it is a defining moment for the MDC-T family and Zimbabwe at large, especially those pro-democracy groups. It is a time for them to unite and be able to fulfil the ambitions of their late Richard Morgan Tsvangirai.
During Tsvangirai’s last days, while he was getting medical treatment in neighboring South Africa, his party endured factional battles over who will serve as acting president -- Elias Mudzuri or Nelson Chamisa.
Chamisa was on Thursday appointed the acting president by the MDC National Council, which is the party’s top-decision making body outside Congress.
Chamisa said the party is not in a crisis. “We are very much saddened that we have lost our very crucial soldier at a very important and crucial moment. We are just four months away from an election and we have lost a commander but what I can tell you is that we do not have a crisis of the generals on the field.”
Chamisa said the party’s only gift to Tsvangirai would be to join hands with other democratic forces and win the election.
MDC’s National Council met on Thursday to debate who will serve as acting president. Something critics have said is un-African to deliberate on who takes over so soon after the news of Tsvangirai’s passing.
Chamisa, however, said it is important to decide.
“There is never an opportune moment to deal with a crisis we are in a crisis, we are in a crisis. There must be leadership in the cockpit to deal with a crisis and there has to be an acting president.”
Chamisa said the Tsvangirai family will guide the MDC-T on burial arrangements.
Condolence messages have been pouring in, Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa was among the first to send condolences and instructed the Zimbabwe Embassy in South Africa to assist the Tsvangirai family in any way appropriate.
It is uncertain what lies ahead for the party’s future as the other two vice presidents, Mudzuri and Thokozani Khuphe, were not at the party offices when the national council made the decision that Chamisa will be acting head for the party.