Zimbabwe’s New President Visits Ailing Opposition Chief
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Friday made a home visit to the leader of the country’s main opposition party, Morgan Tsvangirai, who has been battling cancer.
The visit, which analysts said was highly symbolic, comes as Zimbabwe’s political parties prepare to begin campaigning for elections due later this year.
It will be the first ballot since former President Robert Mugabe stood down on November 21 following a brief military takeover.
Mnangagwa, who was accompanied by his deputy Constantino Chiwenga, the former army chief who led November’s takeover, said Tsvangirai was “recuperating very well” following his colon cancer diagnosis two years ago.
An image of the meeting showed Tsvangirai looking frail and wearing slippers as he sat on a couch holding a hand out to Mnangagwa, who appeared relaxed and wore a smart suit.
“He is fine. He is recuperating very well. Very soon he will be going back again for further medical check-ups in South Africa,” Mnangagwa said as he left Tsvangirai’s home.
Asked whether Zimbabwe required a coalition government to bring together the ruling ZANU-PF and other parties, Mnangagwa said “there is no need”.
“What’s the cause? You are allowed to lobby — it’s a democratic country. People are allowed to lobby for anything. Currently, there is no need,” he said.
Tsvangirai’s deputy in the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party Nelson Chamisa said that Mnangagwa’s gesture was “the politics we want to see”.
“The politics of peace, the politics of working together, the politics of caring for each other,” he said.
Piers Pigou, an analyst at the International Crisis Group, said that the visit could mark the beginning of a new era in Zimbabwe’s politics.
“He’s clearly very sick, visibly so. That fact that (Mnangagwa) is visiting Tsvangirai is an indication of that more than it was of the possibility of some kind of political configuration,” he said, playing down the possibility of a coalition between the two men’s parties.
“It’s an important gesture. It perhaps reflects the beginnings of the maturity of a new politics.”
Tsvangirai is a former prime minister and a veteran political figure who is hoping to lead a unified opposition bloc against Mnangagwa and his all-powerful ZANU-PF party.
Tsvangirai won the most votes in the first-round of the 2008 presidential election in which he faced off against Mugabe — but it was not enough to avoid a run-off against Mugabe.
As Mugabe loyalists unleashed a wave of violence against MDC supporters, Tsvangirai pulled out of the race and later entered negotiations with the government.
He subsequently became prime minister in a power-sharing government in which he was widely seen as being out-foxed by Mugabe.