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Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has died

The Prime Minister of Zimbabwe Morgan Tsvangirai speaks during a lunch at Parliament House on July 23, 2012 in Canberra, Australia. Australia is the third largest donor to Zimbabwe with assistance focused on water, sanitation and economic growth. (Photo by Alan Porritt-Pool/Getty Images)

Alan Porritt-Pool/Getty Images

  • Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe’s longtime opposition leader and political rival of former Prime Minister Robert Mugabe, has died at 65.
  • Earlier this month, it was reported he was “critically ill” in hos pital in South Africa.
  • He had reportedly been suffering from colon cancer.

Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe’s longtime opposition leader and political rival of former Prime Minister Robert Mugabe, has died at 65.

His death was confirmed to Reuters by a member of his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party.

Earlier this month, it was reported he was “critically ill” in a hospital in South Africa. He had reportedly been suffering from colon cancer.

MDC Vice President Elias Mudzuri tweeted the party had “lost our icon and fighter for democracy.”

The African National Congress in South Africa expressed their condolences in a statement to Tsvangirai’s family and party supporters.

Tsvangirai founded the MDC party in 1999, and remained a key opposition figure against Robert Mugabe’s 37-year hold on power.

A popular opposition leader who challenged Mugabe

Supporters of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai participate in a campaign rally for the Movement for Democratic Change June 22, 2008 in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Sunday Tsvangirai withdrew from the upcoming June 27 presidential runoff election, saying that a free and fair vote was totally impossible in the current climate of violence against his supporters.

John Moore/Getty Images

According to BBC News‘ Africa Editor, Tsvangirai was an “incredibly brave man who risked his life to stand up to the authoritarian rule of Robert Mugabe.”

Tsvangirai was the eldest of nine children, and spent hsi early years as a textile worker and miner.

After the country’s Independence in 1980, Tsvangirai joined the patriotic ZANU-PF party, led by future rival Robert Mugabe.

In 1989, he became secretary general of Zimbabwe’s Congress of Trade Unions, before creating the MDC party and leading the opposition against Mugabe.

According to Reuters, Tsvangirai was arguably Zimbabwe’s most popular politician, defined by his years-long conflict with the former-president. He went on to form a tense working relationship with Mugabe in 2009 as part of the country’s coalition government.

Tsvangirai challenged Mugabe again in 2013 but lost, claiming election fraud.

Tsvangirai had been vocal in asking Mugabe to step down after the military temporarily seized power in November.

Mugabe resigned from power shortly after, shifting power to the former-Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

According to the BBC, the MDC is now divided on who will lead the opposition party in elections later this year.


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