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Luke-ing the Beast in the Eye: Morgan Tsvangirai’s June 27 epistle to the people of Zimbabwe

By Luke Tamborinyoka

Today is 27 June 2021. In Zimbabwe’s tenuous political story, June 27 is infamous for the bloody violence in the contrived run-off poll of 27 June 2008 in which Zanu PF used massive violence to reverse the 29th March 2008 poll victory by Morgan Tsvangirai.

Luke Tamborinyoka and Morgan Tsvangirai
Then spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka and the late Morgan Tsvangirai

On 22 June of the same year, Morgan Tsvangirai had pulled out of the violent run-off saying he could not sacrifice the people for power– famously stating that he would not walk to State House on top of dead bodies and graves. The contrived blood-soaked run-off plebiscite was dismissed by SADC and the AU as a sham, leading to the formation of the inclusive government in February 2009, which government brought the much-needed fillip to the weather-beaten people of Zimbabwe.

Since then, June 27 has become a figurative expression of the demon of State-sanctioned violence in the country. It could not have been a mere coincidence that Zanu PF chose this week to give a solemn warning that June 27 as an epoch of violence is likely to recur ahead of the next election.

Zanu-PF acting national commissar Patrick Anthony Chinamasa appears to have deliberately chosen the June 27 week to boisterously declare that Zanu PF and the army are inseparable. The idea was probably to send shivers down the spines of ordinary Zimbabweans by stating that Zanu-PF will continue to abuse the army for parochial partisan interests in violation of section 208 of the Constitution.

Zimbabweans have not forgotten that the June 27 2008 violence was mainly orchestrated by the army. Chinamasa’s reckless utterances are thus a harbinger of more violent moments to come. His utterances are an ominous warning that Zanu-PF will continue to abuse the military to overturn what will certainly be the people’s overwhelming anti-regime verdict in the watershed 2023 plebiscite.

But today, I want to remind Zimbabweans of the other dark side of June 27 as a wicked political moment a day that grossly interfered with high pitched chorus for change in Zimbabwe. In many respects, June 27 will go down into the annals of history as a dark patch in the country’s strident march to democracy and freedom.

Today, I republish Morgan Tsvangirai’s 27 June 2016 memo to the people of Zimbabwe. It was an epic public disclosure that he had been diagnosed with cancer of the colon.

It was the statement in which he went public for the first time about the epidemiological violence that eventually felled him. It will remain a matter of conjecture whether his condition was natural or contrived by a regime so adept at getting rid of its political opponents.

I had privately haggled with Dr Tsvangirai on when he could make this disclosure to the people of Zimbabwe. He had told me he would ruminate over the matter before making his decision.

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The intricate details on this and his relationship with Mugabe during the era of the inclusive government as well as his fears, hopes and frustrations, including some details which might shock readers, are all contained in my forthcoming book, Service and *Sacrifice, that will be on the market in the very near future.

Suffice to say on 27 June 2016, while on a medical trip to South Africa, President Tsvangirai called me to say he had finally made a decision to go public on his health condition. He then asked me to draft a short message on his behalf divulging his medical condition to the people of this country.

We exchanged drafts over the phone before I finally released the following statement on his behalf that very day,. The disclosure of his medical condition marked a seismic chapter in the country’s history, culminating in the death of Zimbabwe’s democracy icon on 14 February 2018 .

The late Tsvangirai braved his ailment. He Luke-ed the Beast of death right in the retina of the eye until his death. His diagnosis with cancer of the colon spawned big decisions, including the appointment of two more Vice Presidents, which decision the regime would later seize through captured State institutions in a vain attempt to decimate the party.

And yet the people’s party still stands proud and tall today, despite the brickbats and vicious blows thrown at it to douse the hope of a determined people that will certainly unite Zimbabwe for change.

For me, Dr Tsvangirai’s terse June 27 memo republished below will always remain a poignant epistle in the momentous story of this country’s democratic struggle:

President Morgan Tsvangirai speaks on his health

On the 8th of May 2016, my Zimbabwean doctors referred me to South Africa where a further diagnosis revealed that I am suffering from cancer of the colon. Following the diagnosis last month, I underwent an operation last month that was very successful.

However, a diagnosis of cancer is the first of several medical procedures that include treatment through chemotherapy, which treatment I began this week. As a leader and a public figure, I have taken a decision to make public my condition.

It is my firm belief that the health of national leaders, including politicians, should not be a subject of national speculation and uncertainty.

I want to thank my wife Elizabeth for her love and caring, my family, MDC members and the broader Zimbabwean society for their prayers and support on this journey.

This health condition is unfortunate but can be faced by anyone. I intend to confront this development with the determination to overcome it. In the meantime, let us remain focused in confronting the national crisis we face.

God bless you all.

Luke Tamborinyoka is the Deputy Secretary for Presidential Affairs in the MDC Alliance led by Advocate Nelson Chamisa. He is the former spokesperson to the late icon Morgan Tsvangirai. You can interact with Tamborinyoka on his Facebook page or on the twitter handle @ luke_tambo