Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe\'s Veteran Opposition Leader, Has Died At 65

The party's vice president Elias Mudzuri described Mr Tsvangirai, 65, on Twitter as "our icon and fighter for democracy".

He said: "I can confirm that he died this evening. The family communicated this to me."

Mr Tsvangirai passed away in South Africa, where he had spent 18 months undergoing treatment for cancer.

The veteran politician spent decades fighting Robert Mugabe's regime and came very close to unseating him in 2008.

He was, however, out-manoeuvred and, ultimately, outlived by the 93-year-old dictator, who stepped down as the country's president last November.

Supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai holds his portrait as they attend the final campaign rally 'Cross Over' on July 29, 2013 at the 'Freedom Square' in Harare ahead of the general elections held on July 31, 2013. Zimbabweans vote for a new president and parliament on July 31 , four years after Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe-- who has ruled for 33 years -- and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai were forced to share power. AFP PHOTO / JEKESAI
Image: Mr Tsvangirai founded the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in 1999

Mr Tsvangirai was the son of a bricklayer and began his working life working in a rural mine to support his first wife Susan and their six children.

He got his first taste of politics when he took on the role of mine foreman, moving on in 1988 to become full-time secretary general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.

In 1999, he helped found the MDC and quickly became Zimbabwe's best-known opposition figure.

In June the following year, Mr Tsvangirai inspired poorer voters with his rhetoric, stunning the ruling ZANU-PF party by winning 57 of the 120 seats in parliament.

He was praised for his political courage, but many worried that he was headstrong and had been ill-equipped to take on Mugabe.

He suffered many abuses at the hands of Zimbabwe's security forces, the worst of which was a beating by police in 2007 which left him with severe head injuries.

In 2008, he got the most votes in the national election, but was just short of the more than 50% needed to win outright.

He boycotted the next round, saying his supporters were being targeted with violence, a move that handed victory to Mugabe.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe (R) and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (L) announce the conclusion of the constitution making process at State House on January 17, 2013 in Harare. Mugabe said the country has concluded writing a draft constitution after all political parties agreed to the charter that is set to go for a referendum before elections this year. Mugabe and Tsvangirai formed a power-sharing government three years ago after violent and disputed polls in 2008. Their relations have
Image: Mr Tsvangirai and Mugabe at one stage managed to work together in government

Between 2009 and 2013, he served as Mugabe's prime minister in a government hastily cobbled together after a violent and disputed election.

The two often fought but managed at one point to maintain a working relationship, even sharing afternoon tea every Monday.

Mr Mugabe said at the time: "It's not as hostile as before. It's all over now - we can shake hands."

His presence helped to stabilise the struggling economy but, after Mugabe refused to overhaul Zimbabwe's partisan security forces, Mr Tsvangirai was moved back to his opposition role.

Also, his colourful love life was regularly a topic of interest for the tabloids and courts.

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Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe\'s Veteran Opposition Leader, Has Died At 65

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Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe\'s Veteran Opposition Leader, Has Died At 65

Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe\'s Veteran Opposition Leader, Has Died At 65

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Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe\'s Veteran Opposition Leader, Has Died At 65

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Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe\'s Veteran Opposition Leader, Has Died At 65