History Monday: Morgan Tsvangirai

Morgan Tsvangirai is a Zimbabwean born trade unionist and politician; former prime minister and president of the Movement for Democratic Change party. He was prime minister of Zimbabwe during the Government of National Unity era between 2008 and 2013. Tsvangirai is also known for having led the country’s trade union umbrella body, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions up to 2000 when he became president his party.


He was born Morgan Richard Tsvangirai on March 10, 1952 in Gutu, Masvingo Province. Born to a bricklayer father, Chibwe Tsvangirai and mother Lydia Tsvangirai, Tsvangirai is the eldest in a family of nine. He was married to his wife Susan Tsvangirai who perished in a road accident in 2008. The couple had six children together and these are; Edwin Tsvangirai, Vimbai Tsvangirai, Garikai Tsvangirai, Millicent Tsvangirai, Vincent Tsvangirai, and Rumbidzai Tsvangirai. In 2012 Tsvangirai was invloved in a relationship with one Leocardia Karimatsenga but the relationship was short-lived. He evententually married Elizabeth Macheka customarily after Karimatsenga sought a court order to stop a legal union of theb two.

Educational Background

He did his primary education at St. Marks Goneso Primary School Hwedza, and transferred by his father to Chikara Primary School Gutu then he went to Silveira Mission. He did his secondary education at Gokomere High School. He left school at the age of 16 to become a textile weaver to support his lowly and extended family. Often called a ‘tea boy’ because of his educational background.

Political career

The political career of Morgan Tsvangirai can be understood in various historical phases. Morgan Tsvangirai’s political career began with his election as the Secretary General of the national trade unions umbrella body. During this period, the movement criticised the government’s failure o improve the lives of the workers and this put placed Tsvangirai on the political limelight. Tsvangirai had earlier on joined active politics in the 1987 and 1989 after leading a series of strikes against the ZANU-PF government’s tax increases when he was the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union Secretary General.
The government’s cancelling of two tax bills made him popular and helped him to found the MDC with others in 1999. He became the first man to defeat Robert Mugabe in an election since 1980 after winning the 2008 Presidential election. He garnered 47,8% against Mugabe’s 43,2%. Tsvangirai entered mainstream politics on the 26th of February in 1999 when the MDC party began to make its impact in the local political landscape. The party was officially launched in September 1999 at Rufaro Stadium in Harare and Morgan Tsvangirai emerged as the endorsed leader of the party. Tsvangirai was deputised by Gibson Sibanda a fellow trade unionist with the ZCTU.

Government of National Unity 2008-2013

After the controversial elections of 2007 which failed to produce an outright winner, Morgan Tsvangirai leading the MDC entered into a power-sharing agreement with Robert Mugabe of ZANU-PF and Arthur Mutambara of the MDC M formation. The power-sharing deal which came to be known as the Government of National Unity was brokered by the South African president Thambo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma respectively. The arrangement resulted in Tsvangirai assuming the office of the prime minister deputised by Thokozani Khupe and Mutambara. Tsvangirai was credited for his role in stabilising the political landscape of the country by agreeing to this compromise. This was also coupled by a relatively stable economic environment which characterized the GNU period.


Factionalism Challenges

Since the beginning of his political career, Tsvangirai was faced with challenges of internal opposition from hi party. In 2005, Tsvangirai chose not to contest the controversial senatorial elections and this resulted in internal opposition. The opposing faction was led by his deputy Mutambara who participated in the elections together with some members. They eventually formed their own party. In 2010, another break-up occurred when Job Sikhala pulled out to form his party MDC-99. In 2013 soon after the elections, Tsvangirai was criticized by his then Secretary General Tendai Biti for lack of a sound ideology in the previous elections. This resulted in Biti being demoted from his office and he subsequently left to form his party called MDC Renewal Team.

Fatal Accident and the Death of Susan

The accident which claimed Tsvangirai’s first wife Susan occurred along the Harare-Masvingo highway on the 6th of March 2009. The accident occurred when their official vehicle collided head-on with a lorry. Susan died on the spot and Tsvangirai sustained injuries.[2]

Trials and Arrests

Tsvangirai was once arrested and detained by the Zimbabwe Republic Police in 1989 on allegations of spying to the South African apartheid government. He was detained for six weeks. He has been charged for treason more than three times since 2002 were a mysterious video emerged which allegedly showed discussing how to assassinate Mugabe.In 2003 he was also charged for treason after calling for mass protests to oust Mugabe.2007 was dark patch for him as he was brutally assaulted by the police for allegedly taking park in an ‘illegal’ prayer meeting


  1. Pindula (2016) ‘Morgan Tsvangirai’

One comment

  1. I’m embarrassed to say that I was unaware of Morgan’s biography. Wonder if he will write an autobiography or has he?


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