HARARE – Thousands of mourners packed central Harare to bid farewell to Zimbabwe’s former prime minister and opposition figurehead Morgan Tsvangirai, who recently died of colon cancer aged 65.
A hearse carrying the mortal remains of Tsvangirai, who died on Feb. 14, made its way through huge crowds supporters who had gathered in the capital’s Freedom Square to catch a glimpse of the funeral procession.
Most of the attendees wore red, the party colors of Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change, and many were visibly emotional during the solemn event.
In 2008, Tsvangirai emerged as a serious challenger to Zimbabwe’s then-president Robert Mugabe and bested the incumbent in the first round of a presidential election, only to later drop out amid threats of violence.
Tsvangirai remained a vocal critic of Mugabe, who he served as prime minister between 2008-13 – the year that post was abolished –, up until the nonagenarian ex-president was forced to resign in November 2017, ending his 30-year rule.
As it appeared increasingly likely that Mugabe would step down, Tsvangirai returned to Zimbabwe from South Africa, where he had been receiving treatment for his colon cancer.
Power was later handed over to Mugabe’s fellow Zanu-PF member and former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mnangagwa, a favorite of the country’s powerful armed forces, had recently been fired by Mugabe in an apparent bid to shoehorn his wife, Grace, into power.
The opposition leader Tsvangirai, who spent time in prison and evaded assassination plots for his outspoken criticism of the government, was internationally lauded for his commitment to democracy.
Tsvangirai is to be buried in his rural hometown of Buhera, 270 kilometers (168 miles) east of Harare on Tuesday.