HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai died on Wednesday after a long battle with cancer, casting his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party into the unknown less than three months after the army ousted long-time ruler Robert Mugabe.
Tsvangirai, who died in South Africa, was 65.
“I can confirm that he died this evening. The family communicated this to me,” MDC vice-president Elias Mudzuri told Reuters.
Arguably Zimbabwe’s most popular politician, the mining union leader’s career was ultimately defined by his tussles – both literal and figurative – with 93-year-old Mugabe, who resigned after a de facto coup in December.
Elections are due within the next six months and Tsvangirai’s illness and now death leaves his party in disarray, to the advantage of the ruling ZANU-PF party, now led by former Mugabe deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Although Tsvangirai suffered serious physical abuse at the hands of security forces, including serious head injuries in police custody in 2007, he went on to form an uneasy working relationship with Mugabe in a 2009-2013 coalition government.
Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Ed Cropley/James Macharia/Andrew Heavens