By Mugove Tafirenyika
From early in the morning, there was a sea of supporters adorned in the MDC’s red party colours who snaked their way from Harvest House — the party headquarters in central Harare — singing “Chikara cheZanu, ndiwe (Zanu’s monster is you.) Morgan.”
As the Doves Morgan funeral cortege approached the Robert Gabriel Mugabe Square, an area adjacent the Rainbow Towers Hotel which the opposition MDC supporters prefer to call Freedom Square, his legion of supporters broke into song, exalting their departed leader.
The casket carrying Tsvangirai’s body was driven slowly to the venue of the requiem service, with some mourners who arrived around 9am waiting for four hours for the arrival of their hero.
Tens of thousands of Zimbabweans lined the streets of Harare to see-off Tsvangirai.
When Amos Chibaya, the party’s deputy organising secretary and Mkoba MP began proceedings as the Master of Ceremonies, many wept openly — but the sombre atmosphere was punctuated with cheers as the crowd celebrated when family representatives read out Tsvangirai’s life history.
There was silence and weeping when a eulogy was read, in which Tsvangirai was described as a fearless and God-fearing person, who was resolute in his convictions.
Deepening divisions in the MDC executive were put aside as top members united to give Tsvangirai a dignified send-off.
Acting MDC president Nelson Chamisa brought some in the crowd to tears when he paid tribute to the man who mounted the fiercest challenge to Zanu PF rule and led the opposition MDC since its formation in 1999 and died while prosecuting his struggle to free Zimbabwe.
Chamisa attracted wild applause from the crowd as he delivered his electrifying speech, emphasising the need for the opposition party to carry on with Tsvangirai’s vision.
He said his words were too frail to carry the burden of the party’s grief.
“We initially looked down upon him saying what degree do you have, only to later realise that while he did not hold an academic degree then, he had a degree in leadership. That is why for the 18 years he led us, some of us never questioned his leadership. We simply followed, we never asked why.
“But when you see a leader being followed by professors such as (Welshman) Ncube, academic doctors such as (vice president Thokozani) Khupe and engineers such as (vice president Elias) Mudzuri, that tells you that Tsvangirai is the professor, chibaba chenyuchi (he is a great man).
“The beauty of it all, however, is that he gave us his vision, I have his vision, he gave it to us. We are going to Buhera to bury him but we are not going to bury his ideas,” Chamisa said.
Turning to the leadership wrangle that has engulfed the MDC since the former prime minister’s death, Chamisa pledged to have it resolved to “fulfill Tsvangirai’s vision.”
He said when Tsvangirai appointed him and Mudzuri as co-vice presidents, the MDC leader was planning his succession.
“Some people did not know that when he appointed us VPs, he had his game plan. He told me that we must work to keep the party together and he told me that he wanted to go to India and that I was supposed to lead his campaign.
“This was said in front of (Tsvangirai’s brother) Manase and (Tsvangirai’s uncle) Sekuru Zvaipa that the MDC Alliance was a necessity, so those who are talking about the possibility of a split must calm down because this is not anyone’s party but the people’s.
“If you don’t follow what the people want, they will reject you,” Chamisa, who was elected by the National Council last week to lead the party for the next 12 months, said. Chamisa also poured scorn on President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s refusal to recognise Tsvangirai as a national hero.
A day earlier, Mnangagwa visited Tsvangirai’s family to offer condolences ahead of yesterday service.
“Let us all be brothers and sisters, and come together and mourn our former prime minister.
“When we write the history of this country, we cannot leave out the participation and role that the former prime minister played in the effort to entrench democratic values in this country,” Mnangagwa said at Tsvangirai’s residence
Chamisa said MDC supporters were not convinced that Mnangagwa — whose government offered Tsvangirai a State-assisted funeral — was genuine in its intentions.
“We are very sceptical because they did not recognise his work while he was alive. They vilified him and they tortured our president, so now we get surprised when they offer to fly his body in a helicopter to Buhera when he never used it during his lifetime,” Chamisa said.
Tsvangirai’s body was airlifted just after the Harare farewell to Humanikwa Village in Buhera in an Agusta 412 bell helicopter.
He will be buried this afternoon.
Chamisa alleged Mnangagwa — who has previously been accused of co-ordinating State intimidation of the opposition — was warming up opportunistically to Tsvangirai.
“If the family says so, we cannot help it but follow what they want but as a party, that is our issue because we know that he (Mnangagwa) is shedding crocodile tears.
“Kunyangwe hako uri ngwena, usachema misodzi yengwena, chemawo misodzi yevanhu (Even if we know that you are nicknamed Crocodile, do not shed crocodile tears).
“We will face each other very soon so that we settle it because we are also plotting against you. We must fight it out and see who wins. We are ready to roar in 2018 and this is the best tribute we can give to Tsvangirai,” Chamisa said.
Tsvangirai’s sons Edwin and Richard called on the MDC members to protect their father’s legacy through unity and non-violent polls.
Zambian Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) president, Nkole Chishimba — a longtime ally of Tsvangirai — said he was saddened the MDC leader’s untimely death.
Chishimba described Tsvangirai as a selfless leader who gave away his presidency to Mugabe for the sake of the country “because he said he did not mind losing 2013 elections as long as my actions are for the good of my people”.
“I came very far with Tsvangirai and we did a lot of good and bad things together,” Chishimba said.
“I came here at one point and travelled with him to Guruve and I had his posters in my car. I was not searched because I had a diplomatic passport. Then Chamisa was a young boy who had just been expelled from college, now he is president.
“I did not come with condolences for Tsvangirai; I have come to celebrate his life. Morgan was mistreated by this government. I asked him how do you sleep with the devil, but he said to me he was getting into the inclusive government for the people,” he said.
The farewell rally was also attended by Zambian Civil Affairs minister Aaron Miller, MDC Alliance leaders, Zimbabwe’s former deputy Health and Child Care minister Paul Chimedza, former Energy minister and opposition leader Elton Mangoma, who leads the Coalition of Democrats (Code), National Constitutional Assembly leader Lovemore Madhuku, International Socialist Organisation (ISO) leader and founding MDC member Munyaradzi Gwisai and civil society leaders.
Just after the ceremony, Chamisa received one of Tsvangirai’s best friends, Kenya opposition leader Raila Odinga at the Robert Mugabe International Airport. Odinga is at the centre of controversy in Kenya after he declared himself the “people’s president” at a controversial “swearing-in” ceremony in the capital Nairobi three weeks ago.
President Uhuru Kenyatta had been sworn in for a second term last November after “winning” an election re-run in October, boycotted by Odinga.
Elections were first held in August but the courts ordered a re-run, saying Kenyatta’s victory was marred by irregularities.
A son of Kenya’s first vice president, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, last year’s unsuccessful bid for the presidency, was Odinga’s fourth. If he had lived, Tsvangirai’s bid for the 2018 elections would also have been his fourth.
Chamisa told the Daily News late yesterday he was accompanying Odinga to Humanikwa Village, together with the top leadership of the MDC, for Tsvangirai’s burial. DailyNews