Morgan Tsvangirai-A profile
Tsvangirai was born in the Gutu area in then-Southern Rhodesia, the eldest of nine children and the son of a carpenter and bricklayer. After leaving school early, in 1974 he started working for the Trojan Nickel Mine in Mashonaland Central. He spent ten years at the mine, rising from plant operator to general foreman.
Tsvangirai is a product of important social movements in Zimbabwe, which include the labour and constitutional reform movements. He is the former Secretary General of the powerful Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and is the founding chairperson of the National Constitutional Assembly, a group that advocates for a new constitution for Zimbabwe.
Tsvangirai became branch chairman of the Associated Mine Workers Union and was later elected into the executive of the National Mine Workers Union, and in 1989 he became the Secretary-General of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the umbrella trade union organization in the country.
It was Tsvangirai who led the ZCTU away from its alliance with the ruling Zanu PF. As his power and that of the movement grew, his relationship with the Government deteriorated. He has also been a victim of premeditated and government-inspired harassment and violence. There have been three assassination attempts,, which include the 1997 attempt, where unknown assailants burst into his tenth story office and tried to throw him out of the window.
Tsvangirai lost the March 2002 presidential election to Robert Mugabe of the ruling Zanu-PF party. The election provoked widespread allegations that Mugabe had rigged the election, through the use of violence, media bias, and manipulation of the voter’s roll, leading to abnormally high pro-Mugabe turnout in some areas.
Morgan Tsvangirai served as Chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) in 1997 which was formed as a grouping of individual Zimbabwean citizens and civic organisations including, labour movements, student and youth groups, women groups, churches, business groups and human rights organisations. These individuals and groups formed the NCA to campaign for constitutional reform after realizing that the political, social and economic problems affecting Zimbabwe were mainly a result of the defective Lancaster House Constitution and can only be resolved through a new and democratic constitution. He stepped down after being elected president of the MDC.
Tsvangirai was arrested after the government alleged that he had threatened President Robert Mugabe. The Movement for Democratic Change leader had told 40,000 supporters at a rally in Harare that if Mr Mugabe did not want to step down before the next elections scheduled for 2002 “we will remove you violently”.
“However Tsvangirai said that he was giving a warning to President Mugabe to consider history. There is a long line of dictators who have refused to go peacefully – and the people have removed them violently,” he said.
The courts dismissed the charges.
In May 2003 Tsvangirai was arrested on a Friday afternoon shortly after giving a press conference, the government alleged he had incited violence. In the press conference he had said:
“From Monday, June 2, up to today June 6, Mugabe was not in charge of this country.
He was busy marshaling his forces of repression against the sovereign will of the people of Zimbabwe.
However, even in the context of the brutalities inflicted upon them, the people’s spirit of resistance was not broken.
The sound of gunfire will never silence their demand for change and freedom.”
March 2007 beating and arrest
His wife was allowed to see him in prison, after which she reported that he had been heavily tortured by police, resulting in deep gashes on his head and a badly swollen eye.. The event garnered an international outcry and was considered particularly brutal and extreme, even for a regime as nefarious as Mugabe’s.
He was tortured by a crack commando unit based at the army’s Cranborne Barracks on March 12, 2007 after being arrested and held at Machipisa Police Station in the Highfield suburb of Harare.
In September 2007 it was widely reported that Tsvangirai met Thabo Mbeki, the President of South Africa for crucial talks with on how to speed up talks between the ruling ZANU PF and the Movement for Democratic Change party.