Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe’s iconic opposition leader, passed away on Wednesday evening. Civil society activist and #ThisFlag founder Evan Mawarire, writing shortly before his death, reflects on Tsvangirai’s legacy.
There is no way we can ever tell the post-independence story of Zimbabwe without mentioning Morgan Tsvangirai as a major cog. He moved an era.
Morgan’s courage to challenge Mugabe was not unprecedented – others had done it before. But his courage was in a class of its own. The likes of Edgar Tekere, Margaret Dongo and Ndabaningi Sithole who had formed notable opposition parties in the past all had one thing in common; they were former ZANU PF leaders.
Morgan Tsvangirai was different. He was from the outside and brought a new kind of energy to the political landscape. He spoke the language of the working man and most importantly he was a working man himself. In 1999, for the first time since independence, an alternative, vibrant and powerfully defiant grassroots movement that successfully captured the imagination of an oppressed people was formed.
Morgan and that initial group of people, who courageously bore the brunt of a brutal regime, began the journey of what we know today as the broader democracy movement in Zimbabwe. I shudder to think what it would have been like for people like me to face Mugabe head on – as I did in recent months – had it not been for people like Morgan who over the years had worn out the beast called Zanu-PF, ridden by the ruthless dictator and tyrant Mugabe.
For all his mistakes in leadership and his personal shortcomings, Tsvangirai’s legacy is that he emboldened a people and proved that it is possible to take our nation in a different direction. I guess like Moses his job was to lead us through a wilderness, keep us focused and keep us hopeful. However, just as Moses too stood on a mountain and saw the promised land that he would not enter, Morgan will have to be content that the best part of his journey is that he was able to finally see a people gather enough courage to stand up for themselves and leave the oppression and injustice behind to go forward, into a better Zimbabwe.