The Movement for Democratic Change National Council today announced that the party’s vice president, Nelson Chamisa, was taking the role of acting president for 12 months following party leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s death.
The MDC described Tsvangirai as a hero who had “left his footprints on the sands of history”, in large part through his tussles – both literal and figurative – with Mugabe.
Tsvangirai suffered repeated abuse and harassment from Zimbabwe’s security and intelligence services, including a 2007 beating in police custody that left him with a badly swollen face and a deep gash in his head.
Scores of his supporters were beaten and killed during campaigning for a 2008 election that eventually resulted in four-year unity government with Tsvangirai serving as prime minister to Mugabe’s president.
The tense relationship between the two was tempered by moments of respect and humour, and the pair once joked about Tsvangirai fearing Mugabe would try to poison him when they started their custom of taking afternoon tea together every Monday.
In central Harare, crowds of people wearing bright red MDC t-shirts gathered outside the party headquarters. Many wept with grief.
In a sign of respect, the government said it would help pay for the repatriation of Tsvangirai’s body and his funeral but irked many of Tsvangirai supporters by not according him national hero status.