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Zimbabweans Pay Tribute to Tsvangirai; Interment Expected Tuesday


Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters attending a tribute to their party leader Morgan Tsvangirai, Feb. 19, 2018. Tsvangirai died in South Africa after a two-year battle with colon cancer.

Average Zimbabweans turned out Monday to commemorate the life of the country's dogged, long-time opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, ahead of his burial, expected Tuesday.

Thousands of supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change sang as the body of their late party leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, arrived at a public square in Harare. They said the struggle will continue.

One of them was 37-year-old Chaimani Mataka, who spoke of the effort to unseat the ruling ZANU-PF party.

Chaimani Mataka, 37, says his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) must unite to unseat the ruling ZANU-PF party in this year’s Zimbabwe elections, Feb. 19, 2018.
Chaimani Mataka, 37, says his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) must unite to unseat the ruling ZANU-PF party in this year’s Zimbabwe elections, Feb. 19, 2018.

“I am hurt because the struggle will never be the same again without Morgan Tsvangirai. I so wish that if we unite as a party, we bring a united front which must manage to remove ZANU-PF, remove this tyrant government, which is now being led by Emmerson Mnangagwa,” said Mataka.

Tsvangirai died in South Africa on February 14 after a two-year battle with colon cancer.

The opposition has been hit by disunity as various members fight to head the MDC. Acting leader Nelson Chamisa told mourners Monday that an MDC victory in the expected mid-year elections would be a fitting tribute to Tsvangirai.

“The only tribute you can give to the president [Tsvangirai] is a tribute of a vote," said Chamisa. Continuing in Shona, he added, "Then we change the country. We can assure you of immediate positive changes and good times. We are not like ZANU-PF, which takes forever to bring positive changes to the country."

Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) acting leader Nelson Chamisa addresses party supporters in Harare, Zimbabwe, Feb. 19, 2018.
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) acting leader Nelson Chamisa addresses party supporters in Harare, Zimbabwe, Feb. 19, 2018.

The ZANU-PF party has dominated Zimbabwean politics since independence in 1980 with, until recently, former President Robert Mugabe at the helm.

Current Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa took the helm in November after Mugabe was forced to resign under pressure from the military.

Despite the current wrangling in the MDC, Chamisa is expected to be the one to lock horns with Mnangagwa in this year's polls.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his wife Auxillia arrive to pay their respects at the home of Movement For Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai in Harare, Zimbabwe, Feb. 18, 2018.
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his wife Auxillia arrive to pay their respects at the home of Movement For Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai in Harare, Zimbabwe, Feb. 18, 2018.

Tsvangirai was a charismatic and determined politician who faced off repeatedly with Mugabe and the ZANU-PF, eventually entering into a coalition government for several years after the violent, disputed elections of 2008.

On Sunday, Mnangagwa described the late opposition leader as a “brave man.”

Zimbabwe's Air Force flew Tsvangirai’s body to his rural home, about 250 kilometers southeast of Harare, ahead of the planned burial Tuesday.

Kenyan opposition leader and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga is among those the Movement for Democratic Change said would be attending Tsvangirai’s funeral.

FILE - Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai speaks to the Associated Press after giving a press conference at his home in Harare, Zimbabwe, Nov. 16, 2017.
FILE - Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai speaks to the Associated Press after giving a press conference at his home in Harare, Zimbabwe, Nov. 16, 2017.

It's not clear what Tsvangirai's passing will mean for the party's fortunes; but, many say a leadership struggle in the MDC would greatly enhance the ruling party's chances of winning again.

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