Dr. Morgan Tsvangirai: Footprints On The Sands Of History – Tribute by Luke Tamborinyoka (Part 1 of 2)

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Facts are stubborn. It is trite to state that the story of this country cannot be written without according veneration to the name of Dr. Morgan Richard Tsvangirai.


This article is a special tribute that was written by Luke Tamborinyoka in honour of Dr. Morgan Richard Tsvangirai; after the veteran leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has passed on in February 2018. Luke had served as the Presidential Spokesperson of Morgan Tsvangirai for over a decade.

Morgan Tsvangirai - MDC

For there is no debate he deserves his own space in the national narrative for the significant role he has played in shaping the country’s post-liberation politics. Fate is a capricious woman and the whole journey was never planned, as he often said. It was mother fate that often tended to throw him to the deep end.

As he always told me, it all started during midnight conversations at the national labour federation’s elective congress in Gweru in 1988. He did not even want to run for office and most delegates at that Congress, including Tsvangirai himself, had tipped veteran journalist Charles Chikerema to clinch the powerful post of secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU).

The post had once been held by Albert Mugabe, the former President’s brother and everyone at the congress was convinced that Chikerema, yet another relative of Mugabe, would ascend to the powerful post. But the conversations on that ominous night on the eve of the elections in Gweru expressed doubts on whether Chikerema would be able to able to wean off the ZCTU from the firm clutches of government, where previous leaders had unwittingly left the ZCTU.

President Tsvangirai, then a leader of the mine workers’ union, eventually agreed to run after fellow delegates had made persuasive arguments about the unsuitability of Chikerema. The delegates had their misgivings on whether the veteran scribe would give the ZCTU its deserved autonomy from government control. It was almost morning when Morgan Tsvangirai finally agreed to run for the post of secretary-general, which he won a few hours later, setting the stage for 30-year tenure in the national limelight as a doyen of the country’s democratic struggle.

When I heard the news at exactly 17:37 hours on Wednesday, I mused over this journey that started in 1988 had painfully ended 30 years later, only 24 days before his 66th birthday. It was a journey in which he was prejudiced of the Presidency following his watershed victory in the elections held on 29 March 2008. Given his mammoth love for the country and its people, he humbled himself and settled for the junior post of Prime Minister.

He was to rescue the country from a debilitating crisis and poise the nation for stability, growth and development in a mere four years as premier of Zimbabwe. Driving a stability and growth agenda through the Government Work Programme, Tsvangirai showed his competence on the wheel of government during his four year stint in government.

As the nation stood on the cusp of a crucial election in which he was expected to win resoundingly, mother Fate again intervened. This time, cruel fate took him to the grave, leaving a despondent nation shell shocked.

He was a man I knew so well. To me, he was a father, a man I served for over a decade. A boss. A friend.

Morgan Tsvangirai - MDC

We travelled the world and across the country together. We spent many times talking about the country and the people he so much loved. Tokyo, Washington, London, Canberra, Beijing, Paris, Berlin, the Swiss Alps in Davos and many other world capitals, I had the privilege of accompanying him as his spokesperson. During those trips across the globe, he often charmed the world and gave revered speeches to bemused audiences, especially during his stint as Prime Minister of Zimbabwe and leader of the country’s opposition.

In the country, we travelled together from Plumtree to Chipinge, from Nyanga to Chirundu and from Mt. Darwin to Binga down in the Zambezi escarpment as he engaged in his favourite pastime - meeting ordinary people and getting their input into how the democratic struggle ought to be prosecuted. The last time was the period between January and February 2017 when we spent one-and-half months traversing the country and getting the people’s feedback on the MDC Congress resolution to enter into a formidable political alliance with other players.

We sat together until late in the night after that tour as we penned his piece after that highly informing jaunt. The piece, in keeping with his natural disposition as a listening leader, was entitled “I Heard You”. He was a boss any rational person could wish for; the only boss I know who could afford to attend funerals of relatives of his underlings, as he did when he came to my rural home in Domboshava for the burial of my grandmother, Martha Tamborenyoka Gombera.

He would wait to give an ear to everyone, whatever their station in life. He often had tiffs with his security personnel, whom he always wanted to relax their tight protocols and allow ordinary people to shake his hand and speak to him.

Party members and ordinary villagers would come from Mt. Darwin and be granted an ear at his residence whether in Strathaven or in Highlands; even against the advice of security personnel who would often wanted to refer the party members to their respective provincial leaders.

Not with Tsvangirai, who would insist he wanted to get the untainted, raw information from ordinary supporters, undiluted by the strictures of officialdom and bureaucracy. That was vintage Tsvangirai. Always a man of the people.

His death came as a shock; especially against the background of my last two moments with him.

Watch out for Part 2 - continuation of this tribute:

Luke Tamborinyoka is the Presidential Spokesperson and Director of Communications in the MDC-T. He writes this in his official capacity.
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