Born in 1952 in Gutu, a remote farming area south of the capital Harare, Tsvangirai was the eldest of nine children whose father worked as a bricklayer.He was forced by poverty to leave school early and start work as a trainee weaver. After two years he became a foreman at a nickel mine in Mashonaland, northern Zimbabwe, where he would stay for 10 years until taking the plunge and becoming a trade unionist.Unlike most of Zimbabwe's leading politicians, Tsvangirai did not fight in the liberation war against Britain despite being 28 years old when Zimbabwe won its independence.In 1988, he was elected secretary general of what later became the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU).Tsvangirai emerged as a powerful political force in December 1997 when he led the ZCTU in crippling strikes over the rising cost of living which brought the country to a standstill.An eloquent and persuasive speaker, he kept up the pressure even after the strike was ended as Zimbabwe's economic woes worsened.In 1999 he created the MDC in a bid to end Robert Mugabe's grip on power, firmly held since independence in 1980 until November 2017.A teetotalling nonsmoker from the majority Shona community, Tsvangirai had widely been seen as the best hope for reviving Zimbabwe's divided politics and moribund economy and was a forceful anti‐corruption advocate.His political career almost ground to a halt in 2001 when he was tried over allegations he had conspired to kill Mugabe, levelled by a self‐proclaimed ex‐Israeli spy. Tsvangirai was eventually cleared.In March 2007, police violently cracked down on Tsvangirai and dozens of opposition activists when they attempted to stage an anti‐government rally. Images of his bloody, mangled face were seen worldwide, leading to global condemnation of Mugabe and his security forces. (© AFP 14/2 2018)
Africa Research Bulletin: Political, Social and Cultural Series – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2018
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