By Gift Phiri
MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai has lost his hair in his latest battle with cancer, telling the Daily News in an exclusive interview on Monday that he feels like he is almost close to regaining full fitness.
Tsvangirai has gone through 10 gruelling chemotherapy sessions at a South African hospital since he began treatment last year.
He was diagnosed with colon cancer last year, forcing him to undergo costly treatment in neighbouring South Africa.
On Saturday, the MDC president was chosen to lead an MDC alliance comprising six opposition parties in a development seen as a giant step towards the completion of the mooted grand coalition.
On Monday, Tsvangirai — touted as the likely candidate to contest President Robert Mugabe in next year’s elections — opened up on his health.
“You know my hair just went out the other day. But I had stayed with my hair for almost eight sessions.
“I’m still under treatment. And as you can see, I am responding well to treatment,” he told the Daily News at his residence on Monday.
Patients undergoing chemotherapy often suffer side effects, including nausea and vomiting, which is usually controlled through antipsychotic or anti-vomiting medicine.
“I was so fortunate, I didn’t go through those, vomiting and all that, no I didn’t,” revealed the MDC leader.
The former prime minister said he was fortunate to be receiving treatment at the best cancer facility in South Africa but was quick to bemoan the steep treatment costs.
“That is why people die. It’s totally unsustainable,” he said.
Addressing his supporters in Harare last year, Tsvangirai lifted their mood when he told them that he would be around in 2018 to defeat Mugabe.
“If we can defeat cancer, we can defeat Zanu PF. I am feeling very healthy now and I am confident that we are going to win the 2018 elections,” he said then.
Tsvangirai, who has lost to Mugabe three times, came closest to becoming Zimbabwe’s new president in the March 29, 2008 elections in which he beat the veteran Zanu PF leader but failed to gain the required votes for an outright victory.
The results of those elections were withheld for six long weeks, amid widespread allegations of ballot tampering and fraud which were later given wings by former Zanu PF bigwigs who are now in opposition ranks.
Tsvangirai pulled out of the planned run-off days before polling citing massive violence and intimidation against his supporters — leaving Mugabe to stage a one-man vote which was widely condemned by the international community.
In the run-up to the sham poll, Mashonaland East had witnessed horrific violence which left an estimated 200 MDC supporters dead when Zanu PF, led by war veterans, went on a retribution exercise to punish people suspected to have not voted for Mugabe.
Until recently, Tsvangirai had been written off as yesterday’s man by his detractors, many of whom also crassly wished that he would never recover from his illness.
Among the mean-spirited Zanu PF officials and other ruling party apparatchiks who showed little empathy for him when he was diagnosed with cancer were maverick Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister, Mandiitawepi Chimene, and a few State media critics.
Bizarrely too, Chimene said then that the MDC leader was being punished for having allegedly wished Mugabe dead — which was a patently false claim.
“Tsvangirai is suffering with cancer. It’s payback time for wishing president . . . Mugabe to die, but Mugabe does not have cancer. Who are we to question God’s will?” she said.
Just recently, Mugabe opened up on his health, which for a long time, had been kept a closely guarded secret.
The 93-year-old Zanu PF leader, who usually receives medical attention in foreign lands, told party supporters at his fifth interface rally held in Chinhoyi recently, that even surgeons were surprised by his age-defying fitness.
“There is the issue that the President is going. I am not going. The President is dying; I am not dying and I thank God for living long. I will have an ailment here and there; I go to the doctors like everybody else, but my organs — my heart, my liver, my bones — are still very strong and doctors were recently surprised saying my bones are now stronger,” said Mugabe, to wild applause from multitudes of his supporters.
“For years, I have always exercised my body — from the days when I was in prison to this day — so that it can be strong. I am a Christian, and so I thank God for continuously giving me life,” he added.
Mugabe, who will turn 94 in February next year, has been to Singapore three times this year for “routine medical check-ups”. Daily News