By Luke Tamborinyoka
Morgan Richard Tsvangirai, my boss for 10 years until he died last year on 14 February on the day the power of love is celebrated worldwide, was not a persona but a gargantuan political moment whose imprint will outlive him for many years to come.
For he represents an epoch and not an episode. He was the only man ever to break Robert Mugabe’s political hymen by defeating him in a largely free and fair election on March 29, 2008.
There is a world of difference between an epoch and an episode. While an episode is a fleeting moment, an epoch represents an era; an indelible imprint on the sands of history.
And Morgan Tsvangirai represents an epoch and not an episode, considering his ineradicable legacy on the country’s national conscience.
There is such a conceptual debate when it comes to colonialism, which was a despicable scar on Africa’s history. The Ibadan school of social history led by Ajayi (1983) and others regarded colonialism as having been a mere episode that did not have a huge impact on the African story. Yet Ekeh (1966) and others of the epochal school are of the view that colonialism was an era that left a huge imprint on Africa, albeit a negative imprint in this respect.
Whereas the episodic school may regard events and personalities as episodes or mere fleeting moments, the epochal school takes the view that events and personalities may be epochs that may have gargantuan effects on lives and social phenomena. I posit that Tsvangirai not persona but a spirit; a moment that belongs to the epochal school; a moment that will outlive the person that created it.
Whereas naysayers from the episodic school may regard Morgan Tsvangirai as having been a mere fleeting moment of little consequence, I choose to go epochal to posit that he was an epoch that left a lasting positive legacy on Zimbabwe’s national story. Several factors may help to explain this.
As we commemorate the first anniversary of Morgan Tsvangirai’s death, not only will history remember him as the only man ever to defeat Robert Mugabe in an election, but as a true embodiment of patriotism, service and sacrifice.
Upon his election as secretary-general at the ZCTU elective conference in Gweru in 1988, Morgan Tsvangirai transformed the country’s labour union and extricated it from the firm clutches of government to make it a truly autonomous union.
By 1998, the ZCTU had become the true megaphone of the voice of the working people of Zimbabwe. Peter Mutasa and Japhet Moyo, the current ZCTU leaders who continue to vociferously fight for the downtrodden and the under-privileged are a mere reflection of the strong legacy and a strong labour institution created by Morgan Tsvangirai and Gibson Sibanda.
So indeed, the Tsvangirai legacy remains an epoch that is still being felt at the institutions he helped build and transform.
He created a mammoth political movement that continues to be a head-ache to those with a penchant to kill, maim and rape. Since its creation by Morgan Tsvangirai and others in 1999, the MDC has continued to be a key democratic player in the country’s Parliament. To this day, Zanu PF remains strangers and visitors to the metropolitan provinces of Harare, Bulawayo and many other local authorities.
Indeed, Tsvangirai will remain an epoch that will continue to outlive him. Zanu PF will remain shunned in the country’s metropoles and in many rural enclaves, thanks to this icon of our time whose moment will remain an epoch that will be with us for a long time.
Morgan Tsvangirai was the founding chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly in 1997. For years, Zanu PF maintained a new Constitution was not a priority until it was forced down their throats with the advent of a new Constitution that was overwhelmingly affirmed by Zimbabweans in a referendum in May 2013.
Thus the new Constitution that we enjoy today is part of Tsvangirai’s rich legacy.
Between 2009 and 2013, Morgan Tsvangirai showed that government can indeed be a positive arena that can bring positive change in the lives of the people. The song, Dollar for two yakauya naTsvangirai (Tsvangirai made basics affordable) will always remain a choral testament to the epochal nature of his legacy while in government.
Morgan Tsvangirai loved his country. He loved the people of Zimbabwe. He brought alternative politics to our country and even today, Advocate Nelson Chamisa’s current leadership of the party represents a stoic persistence of the rich Tsvangirai legacy.
Indeed, Tsvangirai’s spirit lingers on and will exist in perpetuity until the people’s aspirations have been achieved.
The MDC headquarters has been renamed Morgan Richard Tsvangirai House while Harare and several towns and cities have resolved to name some of their streets after this iconic leader of our time. The Tsvangirai spirit will stubbornly linger on as part of an arrogant epoch that will never be undone until the people of Zimbabwe achieve their hour in the sun.
For Morgan Tsvangirai was an embodiment of the people’s perpetual struggle for freedom, democracy and peace.
He had since ceased to belong to the Tsvangirai family. At the time of his death on St. Valentine’s Day last year, he died an African and global icon with a brand that could neither be villagized nor nationalized. That in 2009 he was nominated for the Noble Peace Prize alongside then US President Barrack Obama is ample evidence that the sweat of his endeavour had flown wider and yonder to prick the very conscience of the world.
He was an epoch, a hero, an icon, a patriot, a valiant son of the soil that I had the privilege to serve as a spokesman.
A man who listened.
A leader who valued people, whatever their social station.
Indeed, a doyen of love, service and sacrifice.
As they lowered his body into the loamy soils of Buhera in February last year, I envied the earth that became richer by carrying in its bosom an icon so rich—a doyen so cherished nationally and globally.
Rest in peace, Pakuru.
You shall always be remembered.
Luke Tamborinyoka is the Director of Communications in the MDC who served for 10 years as Morgan Tsvangirai’s spokesman until his death last year.
Tamborinyoka is a multiple award winning journalist and an ardent scholar of Political Science who received the Book Prize for best student when he graduated cum laude with a BSc ( Hon) in Political Science at the University of Zimbabwe in October 2018.