Zimbabwe: veteran opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai passes away

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Tsvangirai, who announced in 2016 that he had colon cancer, was undergoing treatment in South Africa.

But the regional Southern African Development Community, hitherto indulgent of Zanu-PF's authoritarianism, was not convinced by Mugabe's victory and was disturbed by images of political violence. He went on to chair the National Constitutional Assembly, a group that aimed to remake the country's constitution, before forming the MDC in 1999. Tsvangirai was a miner who rose through the ranks of Zimbabwe's trade unions.

It had been a loyal supporter of Mr Mugabe and ZANU-PF, but under Mr Tsvangirai's leadership it became a vocal critic of the government. "But that's the game", Mugabe said on the eve of the 2013 vote, mimicking the movements of a boxer.

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His career was marked by a long political struggle against former President Robert Mugabe and he had been beaten and imprisoned numerous times.

In the last two years, even as his health failed, Tsvangirai was determined to run again in Zimbabwe's 2019 election. His right-hand man, Emmerson Mnangagwa, was sworn in to replace him.

Tsvangirai was viewed by much of the country as a freedom fighter, and his party won a record number of seats for an opposition group in Zimbabwe's parliament, almost seizing a majority in the 2000 elections. Analysts warn that the party is likely to face a major split following his death.

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"My family, our party the Orange Democratic Movement and the National Super Alliance join Mr. Tsvangirai's family, the MDC and the people of Zimbabwe in mourning his death", added Odinga.

"The MDC family mourns with the Tsvangirai family over the unexpected loss of an icon, a unifier, a peacemaker, a fighter, a fearless leader and somebody who was principled".

At a time when Zimbabwe is engaged in preparing for elections that are important to the country's future, France hails the memory of this great champion of democracy.

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