Morgan Tsvangirai funeral: How Zimbabwe’s Buhera village forced its way into international headlines

 

Zimbabwe Digital News and AFP

On the map of Zimbabwe Buhera is one of those small villages that you will likely miss. The village lies in Manicaland province, on the provincial border with Masvingo and is about 170km southwest of Mutare, along the road from Chivhu to Nyazura, just before you get to Murambinda if you are going east.

The village serves as the administrative and commercial centre for the Sabi communal lands, and its economy depends on maize, millet and groundnuts. Infact the name itself is the bastardised version – meaning the territory of the Wa-Hera people, or land of VaHera.

Nothing much happens there – well until today, Tuesday, February 20 – when thousands of people, and indeed the world media descended on the village to send off the man who – at one point – could have been Zimbabwe’s President,  former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Zimbabweans gathered at Humanikwa village, and Buhera enjoyed its moment under the sun for one day only, and bid a final farewell to the veteran opposition leader, now recognised as one of Africa’s most globally admired politicians who lived to see the fall of his political nemesis Robert Mugabe.

Tsvangirai, the country’s fiercest opponent of former president  Mugabe’s tyrannical 37-year rule, died last Wednesday aged 65 at a hospital in South Africa where he had been undergoing treatment for colon cancer. His body was flown to the burial ceremony aboard a military helicopter, accompanied by his mother Mbuya Tsvangirai.

Many people in the crowd blew whistles and wore red shirts emblazoned with Tsvangirai’s portrait, some weeping openly.  Tsvangirai’s dreams of unseating Mugabe through the ballot box were dashed at several elections.

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga, attending the event, condemned political oppression in Africa as he addressed supporters of Tsvangirai whose electoral ambitions, like Odinga’s, were thwarted at controversial polls. “Africa is littered with elections which are rigged,” Odinga told the crowds.

Tsvangirai beat Mugabe in the first round of presidential polls in 2008 but narrowly fell short of the total required to defeat Mugabe outright, according to the official vote count.

Stolen election

“Morgan’s election victory was stolen a year after mine was stolen in Kenya,” Odinga said, referring to the 2007 elections which Odinga alleges were rigged to ensure Kenyatta’s victory.

Zimbabwe is due to hold crucial general elections by July and the country’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa has pledged they will be free, fair and credible — in honour of Tsvangirai.

After being repeatedly beaten and jailed by the regime, Tsvangirai became a symbol of resistance to the ruling ZANU-PF’s authoritarianism, entrenched since Zimbabwe broke from its colonial master Britain in 1980.

“We want to thank Morgan Tsvangirai for fighting for our rights. He was a humble man — a man who was loved by people,” said Christopher Chikwati, a 70-year-old resident of Tsvangirai’s village. “We will remember him forever.”

Former opposition leader Arthur Mutambara, who served as Tsvangirai’s deputy in the power-sharing government, said Tsvangirai was Zimbabwe’s rightful president. “We are here to mourn the president of Zimbabwe, Morgan Tsvangirai — a great Zimbabwean, a great African,” he said. “He was arrested. He was beaten. The people of ZANU-PF are also here, they are the people who killed Morgan Tsvangirai.”

Tsvangirai’s death has sparked a bitter succession struggle within the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party which is threatening to divide the party to the benefit of ZANU-PF.

The party’s acting president Nelson Chamisa said Mugabe and his wife Grace had sent a condolence letter to Tsvangirai’s family.

 

Here is a selection of the best pictures that captured Morgan Tsvangirai’s funeral:

 

Tsvangirai my president. Zimbabweans show their emotions on what Tsvangirai meant to them.

 

People walk alongside the Dove hearse carrying Morgan Tsvangirai’s coffun.

 

Thousands of MDC supporters bidding farewell to Morgan Tsvangirai

 

Pallbearers carry the coffin to the final resting place.

 

The deceased’s mother, Mbuya Tsvangirai arrives by helicopter.

 

Opposition leader, former Zimbabwe Vice President Joyce Mujuru arrives at the funeral.

 

They arrived from all corners, some riding on top of buses

 

Thousands turned up in Harare on Monday at the final memorial service.

 

Moments before Tsvangirai’s coffin arrived at the grave.

 

Sea of red. Thousands turned up in Harare on Monday to bid farewell to Tsvangirai.

 

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga meets Job Wiwa Sikhala.

 

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