By Gift Phiri
Morgan Tsvangirai’s widow Elizabeth was forced to leave Humanikwa Village in Buhera soon after the burial of her husband, unable to attend post-burial ceremonies after suffering relentless abuse at the hands of her late spouse’s family members.
The torment endured by Tsvangirai’s wife has been roundly condemned as “nothing short of a disgrace”.
The widow built the courage to make a public appearance at the burial, even after the family had severed all ties with their vivacious daughter-in-law.
According to Shona tradition, soon after burial of the deceased, precautionary rituals are usually performed to purify those concerned with the funeral, especially the wife, ostensibly to prevent the spirit from returning from the grave to torment those left behind.
Elizabeth did not participate at all in any core-funeral and post-burial ceremonies.
She was kept in the dark about the parameters on how death, funeral and post-death ceremonies should be held, and any other funeral arrangements.
She was also left out of the programme, arrangements how the proper burial rituals would be done, and all logistical issues, protocol included. No one consoled her as the bereaved.
The funeral ceremonies became a strictly Tsvangirai family activity, where family power was exercised to ostracise her, without any sense of remorse.
He role ended as soon as she brought back her husband’s remains back to Zimbabwe from South Africa where Tsvangirai died in a private hospital.
There was an earlier attempt to ban her from her husband’s funeral by her unforgiving mother-in-law Gogo Lydia Chibwe Tsvangirai, who was captured on State TV during the main news bulletin on Saturday night threatening to commit suicide if Elizabeth was allowed to mourn her husband at the Highlands home.
In a no-holds-barred sermon at the Mabelreign Methodist Church during a requiem service for Tsvangirai, forthright Reverend Jimmy Dube slammed the family for abusing their daughter-in-law.
“Vekwa Makuvise, nevekwa Tsvangirai (The Makuvises and the Tsvangirais) we have travelled together the ups and downs of life. Zvekutaura pa public zvemumusha siyanai nazvo (Stop washing your dirty linen in public). Gogo Tsvangirai vane bhachi re red (Tsvangirai’s mum is an esteemed member of the church) and we raised you well zvekutaura pa public siyanai nazvo (don’t air your family disputes in public).”
Elizabeth was also barred from accompanying her husband’s body, which was airlifted just after the Harare farewell to Buhera in an Agusta 412 bell helicopter. The helicopter took off from One Commando barracks with Tsvangirai’s mum.
The inconsolable Elizabeth was forced to proceed to her hubby’s burial in a road trip.
Tsvangirai’s brother, Manase, claimed in State media that Elizabeth was happy with how the family treated her.
“We have to treat all these wives equally,” Manase said.
“Maiguru Elizabeth was with the body from South Africa to Harare, naturally one has to give others a chance.
“When we were preparing to depart from One Commando to Buhera for the burial, we were asked to provide four people to accompany the body and it followed that she had to give others a chance and that is why she travelled by road. It had nothing to do with allegations of ill-treating her.
“When she came here last night, we gave her a room to sleep in and what better recognition do you expect, and she was quite happy.
“If you have three wives, for example, and even if one dies, that symbolic union cannot be taken away, particularly when there are children and when lobola (bride price) was paid. If you do not agree with my interpretation we can ask any elder around.”
Meanwhile, Elizabeth’s role as Tsvangirai’s caregiver was not acknowledged at all throughout the time the grieving widow paid tribute to her husband.
There was no mention of her at his burial, with the family choosing to acknowledge relatives of Tsvangirai’s first wife, Susan, who died in a car crash in 2009 shortly after Zimbabwe’s inclusive government was sworn into power.
Throughout this abuse, Elizabeth wore that Catholic uniform with grace, behaved with decorum in the face of relentless abuse, cast out into an unkind, unfriendly world of misunderstanding in-laws and her late husband’s overbearing relatives.
Throughout the ordeal, she maintained her silence, never retaliating.
However, she felt embraced by her family circle, especially her dad, Zanu PF member and former Chitungwiza mayor Joseph Macheka, who tended to his daughter during the difficult grieving process, amid domination of oppressive traditional practices and customary codes.
The Daily News understands Elizabeth left Humanikwa the morning-after the burial, headed back to Harare.
Her departure reportedly caused rancour in the family, but was a bold statement against dictatorial tendencies by the Tsvangirai family, where her exclusivism became the tone of the funeral, and it was apparent she was being systematically sidelined.
She returned to her Highlands matrimonial home, where she has been confined since.
The only time she left her home was on Wednesday when she was invited to escort Kenya opposition leader Raila Odinga to the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport.
Odinga, one of Tsvangirai’s best friends, travelled to Humanikwa Village to lay the former prime minister to rest.
Odinga — who 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 after his unsuccessful bid for the presidency — met with MDC acting president Nelson Chamisa at the Meikles Hotel on Wednesday.
Chamisa travelled with Odinga to Buhera and back to Harare, where they convened the meeting.
The Daily News understands the meeting discussed “future cooperation, party-to-party cooperation, and carrying forward the legacy of Tsvangirai,” Chamisa told the Daily News in a telephone conversation yesterday.
Asked what Elizabeth was doing at the meeting, Chamisa said: “She was called by Odinga to accompany the family to the airport.”
Odinga came to Zimbabwe with his family, his two daughters and sisters.
The Odinga family was being hosted by Elizabeth. DailyNews