HARARE – Dogged opposition leader and former prime minister in the government of national unity, Morgan Tsvangirai, is recuperating in a Johannesburg hospital after undergoing a medical operation on Wednesday.
MDC secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora confirmed to the Daily News yesterday that Tsvangirai was recovering well in the South African hospital where he had the medical procedure after recently being taken ill.
“On the advice of his doctors, he had to travel to South Africa for treatment where he successfully underwent a medical procedure and is recuperating well. We are happy that our president is recovering well and we wish him a speedy recovery.
“We kindly request the nation and the party to give the president and his family the necessary space and privacy as he recovers. The nation and the media will be kept updated,” Mwonzora said.
There were suggestions last night that Tsvangirai, had been diagnosed with stomach cancer leading to Wednesday’s procedure that was carried out by a leading gastric cancer expert at the Johannesburg hospital.
Well-placed sources told the Daily News that Tsvangirai, 64, and his family had decided on the surgery on the advice of a panel of doctors, following a magnetic resonance-imaging scan and a subsequent biopsy last week.
Another source at the South African hospital where he had the procedure said last night that he was already “on the road to a complete recovery”.
“The surgery was successful and he is on the road to a complete recovery. Medical staff and visitors alike have even been joking with him and his wife (Elizabeth) today (yesterday),” the source said.
Tsvangirai’s medical condition took centre stage in Parliament yesterday during a debate on the president’s speech when Zengeza East MDC MP, Alexei Musundire, criticised Mugabe and his family for shunning local health facilities — including his daughter Bona’s recent decision to give birth overseas.
But furious Zanu PF legislators fired back pointing out that Tsvangirai was also allegedly shunning local health facilities, as examplified by his operation on Wednesday in South Africa.
However, the persistent Musundire insisted that Mugabe and his family were using State funds when they sought medical attention overseas, while Tsvangirai was personally bankrolling his own treatment.
Musundire also asserted that it was “unprecedented” for any family to fly more than 8 000 kilometres across the Indian Ocean to enable their daughter to give birth abroad.
Tsvangirai’s operation comes at a time that there have been signs that the MDC leader and his party are getting their mojo back, after the former prime minister in the government of national unity led a massive demonstration against Zanu PF’s misrule in Harare last month.
Thousands of people — most of them MDC supporters clad in the party’s trademark red regalia — brought the capital’s central business district to a temporary halt then, as they marched in the peaceful demo that culminated in Tsvangirai calling on Mugabe to leave office now or face the wrath of the people.
Observers told the Daily News at the time that the demonstration, the first of many to come ahead of the keenly-anticipated 2018 national elections, had shown that contrary to Zanu PF propaganda that Tsvangirai and the MDC were now spent forces, the main opposition was very much alive and still the major threat to the ruling party’s thuggish hegemony.
Addressing the gathered crowd later, Tsvangirai — who was mercilessly bludgeoned by police and left for dead when he dared participate in a prayer meeting organised by churches in 2007 — said Zimbabweans should ratchet up their demands for their constitutional rights.
“Because of what happened in previous years, I know it’s not easy for Zimbabweans to demonstrate . . . We therefore, as opposition parties, demand that Mugabe must go and have an early retirement in Zvimba (Mugabe’s rural home),” he said.
“This is the first demonstration . . . we are going to other provinces and we are also going to have a national demonstration here in Harare.
“As the MDC, we are not afraid. We are prepared to lead the struggle even at its worst time,” Tsvangirai added.
“We are here to tell Mugabe and his regime that they have failed to provide leadership to the national crisis.
“The two million jobs which were promised to us have turned to be two million vendors.
“Mugabe has no solution to the crisis we are facing because he is tired.
“We are not demanding an overthrow of the government, we are demanding a dignified exit for a tired Mugabe.
“We are saying to Mugabe this is time for him to listen to the voice of the people.
“The people shall rule, the people shall liberate themselves,” Tsvangirai also said to thunderous applause.
Save for a relatively minor incident when panicky and trigger-happy law enforcement agents threw teargas into the mass of protesters, the march was very peaceful and orderly.
Ahead of the march, all eyes were on Tsvangirai as he plotted the first serious mass action that the MDC had embarked on in more than a decade — with both friends and foes keen to see the impact, or lack of, of the demonstration as the 2018 national elections beckon.
Since Zanu PF controversially won the 2013 elections, the economy has been on a precipitous downward slide, with thousands of companies closing shop and hundreds of thousands of people losing their jobs in the process.
Indeed, and despite the best efforts of Reserve Bank governor John Mangudya and his team to mitigate the situation, the debilitating cash shortages that have hit local banks over the past few weeks are worsening, sending the country’s long-suffering citizens and the few remaining companies into panic mode.
Analysts say the cash crunch manifests “the sad reality” that Zimbabwe’s economy is continuing on its catastrophic downward spiral — a consequence of the country’s decades-old political crises that are widely blamed on Mugabe and Zanu PF.
The Daily News has also previously reported that there are growing concerns that Zimbabwe has once again hit the depths of humanitarian and economic despair that were last experienced in 2008, when the country’s seemingly unending political crises knocked Zimbabwe’s economy cold.
Many political and economic observers have also warned that 2016 will in all likelihood be harder all-round than 2015, which was itself generally described as an annus horribilis (horrible year).
They said there was “little hope” that life would get better for most Zimbabweans, and that if anything, the country’s ailing economy would get sicker, while the deadly factional and succession wars ravaging the post-congress Zanu PF were set to worsen.
Economic and political experts have also said that the recent human trafficking scam associated with some Kuwait nationals also showed that Zimbabweans had now become so desperate that they were willing to do anything, including selling each other into slavery, to survive.