|Biography of the Right Honourable Mr. Morgan Richard Tsvangirai, Prime Minister of Zimbabwe|
On 11 February 2009, Morgan Richard Tsvangirai became the second Prime Minister of Zimbabwe since Independence. Robert Mugabe was Zimbabwe’s first Prime Minister, a position abolished in 1987 to make room for an executive presidency and unicameral parliament.
Urgent negotiations finally culminated in the Zimbabwean parliament unanimously passing Constitutional Amendment 19 creating a transitional government and power-sharing arrangement between Robert Mugabe as President and Morgan Tsvangirai as Prime Minister. The Global Political Agreement signed on 15 September 2008 stipulated that, as Prime Minister, Tsvangirai serve as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, and deputy chairman of Cabinet. Tsvangirai was sworn in at State House in Harare on 11 February 2009.
Prime Minister Tsvangirai continues to serve as the President of the majority party in parliament, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Central to the vision of the MDC is (1) democratization, including a new people-driven constitution leading to free and fair elections and restoration of basic human rights and political and media freedoms, (2) humanitarian assistance to address the cholera crisis and chronic food shortages in particular, and (3) economic stabilisation, ending corruption, abuse of state power and state institutions.
The Early Years in Politics
In 1988 Tsvangirai was elected to the powerful position of Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), an umbrella organization for the country’s trade unions.
In January 1998, food prices in Zimbabwe rose almost 40 percent, prompting riots in which eight people died and nearly 2000 were arrested, including Tsvangirai. The food riots were notable for the direct manner in which citizens expressed their displeasure with government which, until this time, was rarely confronted publicly.
In February 1999, the ZCTU convened more than 350 delegates from within its structures and representatives from other civic organizations nationwide at a National Working People’s Convention (NWPC). Its overall aim was to find a lasting solution to the economic challenges facing the country. The NWPC adopted the following declaration:
The NWPC further noted:
The NWPC noted that these resolutions would not be realised “without a strong, democratic, popularly driven and organised movement of the people.” A post-convention meeting was held in Harare 7-9 May 1999 which saw the birth of the MDC. The meeting declared that:
On 11 September 1999 MDC was officially launched and its national executive elected. Executive management of the party until October 2005 included Morgan Tsvangirai (President) Isaac Matongo (Chairman), Gibson Sibanda (Vice President), Welshman Ncube (Secretary General), Gift Chimanikare (Deputy Secretary General) and Fletcher Dhulini (Treasurer).
Leadership of the Movement for Democratic Change
In parliamentary elections held 24-25 June 2000, MDC won a historic 57 seats in Zimbabwe’s 120-seat parliament. ZANU PF won 63 seats. One independent seat was won by Ndabaningi Sithole. Throughout the country, violence against opposition candidates marred the contest. Tsvangirai lost his Buhera North contest to Kenneth Vhundukai Manyonda. This result was, however, set aside the High Court. Manyonda appealed to the Supreme Court but the matter was never heard before the court.
In 2002, like other ZANU PF political opponents in Zimbabwe's post Independence history (Joshua Nkomo, Dumisa Dabengwa, Lookout Masuku and Ndabaningi Sithole) Tsvangirai and MDC colleagues Welshman Ncube and Renson Gasela were charged with treason for an alleged assassination plot against President Mugabe. In 2004 Tsvangirai was acquitted. The others were acquitted in 2003.
In the 31 March 2005 parliamentary elections, 78 seats went to ZANU PF and 41 seats to MDC. The government refused to invite international observers from Europe or the United States and most foreign journalists were prohibited. Regional delegations from the African continent and others from China and Russia were invited, however.
In May 2005 the Zimbabwean Government launched Operation Murambatsvina, or Operation Drive out the Trash, in which poor Zimbabweans in urban areas had their homes destroyed in a purported effort to clear slums. Over 300,000 people were displaced without alternate accommodations being provided, forcing them to abandon cities and return to families in rural areas, where there were no jobs. The Operation focused almost exclusively on areas that were MDC strongholds, thus diluting MDC urban support when displaced persons fled to their rural home areas.
Five months later, a small formation of the MDC split from Tsvangirai over differences of opinion and procedure on whether to boycott Senate elections scheduled for 25 November 2005. Tsvangirai and his supporters believed that participation in a Senate election, a new body added to the then unicameral parliament, would only subject voters to more suffering and intimidation, and that the country's budget could not afford additional costs of a bicameral legislature
Prime Minister Tsvangirai was born on 10 March 1952, in the Gutu area south of Harare. The son of a bricklayer, he is the eldest of nine children. After leaving school early to support his family, Tsvangirai started working in Zimbabwe mines. In 2001 he attended the executive leadership programme at Harvard University. During his political career, Tsvangirai has survived several assassination attempts, the first being in 1997 when unidentified assailants attempted to throw him out of the window of a Harare office building. In 2001 Tsvangirai was awarded the prestigious Solidar Silver Rose Award for outstanding achievement by an individual or organization in the activities of civil society and in bringing about a fairer and more just society. His current rural home is Buhera, 220 miles south east of Harare.
In 1978, he married the late Susan Mhundwa, who was affectionately known as “amai President." Mrs. Tsvangirai died on 6 March 2009 in a tragic road collision enroute to Buhera that also injured the Prime Minister. They have six children -- Edwin, Garikai, Vimbai, Rumbidzai, twins Milcent and Vincent, and one grandchild Gamuchirai. Their youngest grandchild, 30-month old Shawn, son of Garikai, drowned on 4 April 2009.