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Remembering the late icon, former MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai

Morgan Tsvangirai (L)

By Last Tarabuku

As we remember the great leader Morgan Richard Tsvangirai I have a few contributions of how I know him. My contribution is based on my experience as technical staff. I will reserve the rest on his work as a trade unionist to politicians. I hope one day his history will be properly written by people who know him. Most of people who wrote his history are fake. In fact these people wrote that history after he took political office. They have scant history of his time as a trade union leader. People who worked with him like Gilbert Marembo can relate a better accurate history of Morgan. In fact Morgan really wanted Marembo among his close team at MDC. Unfortunately Marembo declined, and it is understandable as he did not want to leave the ZCTU and let it fall into the hands of vultures.

There are three outstanding issues that remain etched in my mind when I think of Morgan. He was first of all a forgiving person. In fact too much forgiving to the detriment of his career as a trade unionist. Secondly he was NOT an office man. Office was very confining to him and he would rather be out there with his working folk. And finally I know him as a person who liked reading. He was a reading adict and would read anything even if it was in Chinese. And indeed he read.

When I joined the ZCTU in 1995 straight from the college after a recommendation from the then Editor of The Worker Newspaper Charles Rukuni, I was astounded by Cde Tsvangirai’s forgiveness attitude. Whatever mistake one did he had in his heart that part of forgiveness. He always gave people second chances. From union officials to ZCTU staff he treated them the same. I remember even some of his deputies at ZCTU worked nocturnal hours to tarnish and distroy him. At the end of the day he would forgive them and pretend nothing happen. As a cub reporter at The Worker I was also bound to to make mistakes due to excitement as a young reporter. I remember I even wrote articles that were not palatable to him. He would call you into his office reprimand you and that’s it. He would say you are a young man and still learning the ropes, he would give you advice but never gagged you. He would try by all means to make you feel better and also understand the politics of the Labour movement. He gave our publication The Worker unfettered independence and freedom to write articles without complaining as long as the facts are correct. He would say this is what we are fighting for at national level. Do you remember articles like “Matongo bites the dust”? Matongo was a Deputy ZCTU President and later became the MDC Chairperson. He defended the writer to the hilt while some wanted the writer to be fired. He believed in really Press Freedom.

He always called me “Young Man” and when I made a mistake he would say “Young Man come to my office”. I knew I would be reprimanded but he would at the end say I know you are on a learning curve. He was a great leader. Great leaders give young people a chance. They do not say I do not want to see you face again. Ironically if you give someone a chance, that person will be loyal to you for ever. That was his vision.

As I reflect about his perchant for forgiveness, I now realize that this could also have been his weakness. Later in life I noticed how the likes of Sikhala and Biti took advantage of this and went on to insult him in the media and all over. I remember Sikhala visiting ZCTU Affices in without any shoes and ZCTU staff asking for cigarettes. Even the current MDC A President was camped at ZCTU under an Organisation called ZURO. He had come with his colleague Dennis Murira and Takawira Musavengana working under Timothy Kondo the then ZCTU Advocacy officer.

I was hurt when Job Sikhala insulated Tsvsngarai’s mother. Biti even called Tsvangirai Gumbura. But Tsvangirai was so forgiving that he roped them back into the party.

The man was approachable. I recall that I was the first reporter to request him an interview his wife Susan while he was at ZCTU. He was hesitant at first and did not want to involve his wife in trade union issues. He eventually capitulated. I wanted to understand what a sort of husband he was. That interview is still fresh in my mind. The story was in The Worker and it was widely read. Morgan was not particularly happy with the picture of Susan that I took. He wanted a better picture but he let it go. But I had taken the real Susan the housewife with unkempt hair. By them he was not into the current hair designs. Readers loved it. She was by then the real Susan. No make-up.

Morgan Richard Tsvangirai was NOT an office man. He would spend weeks without visiting our office. He believed in spending most of his time with workers. He would visit companies and most employment units he could afford. He would also visit each and every union. I had a feeling the office stiffled him as he wanted to be outdoors. He wanted to meet workers, and be among them to discuss their issues and proffer solutions. I remember his labor forums in places like LIZ Hotel and Anglican Church. His adversaries (I won’t name them for now) would follow him to the labour forums grudgingly. He would give them time to expose themselves to the audience. Some of them would sweat because they would be trying to defend a rougue regime. Such was his tactic of letting them expose themselves. He would even call for a meeting in Masasa industrial area and all Workers Committees in that area would mobilises workers to attend these meetings. This was one of the greatest things that I witnessed. Workers in Masasa would come in their thousands. Workers in Southerton would come in their thousands. He had a gift of uniting workers. This endeared him to the masses and this explains his popularity. I guess the situation has changed now. It’s not easy to assemble such workers. I remember every company in industrial areas in Zimbabwe used to get a copy of The Worker Newspaper and workers would congregate to read the few copies. At Coca-Cola for instance the late Cde Cephas Makuyana was our agent and he made sure that every worker had a copy of the publication. Such was the dedication by comrades! But things have changed and we can no longer live in the past. Times change.

To me there is no doubt that Morgan Richard Tsvangirai was self taught. Whenever he was in the office he would voraciously read anything before him. He would come early in the office and spend hours reading whatever was at his disposal. This explains why he could stand up to any debate. He was well informed on any developments in any subject. He was well read. From economics, labour issues and law. You would think he was a lawyer. Sometimes you would not realise that he has been in the office for 3 days if you did not go to his office. He would be immersed in books voraciously going through books.

But I also credit the ZCTU for having a robust Education and Training Department. There is no better training that you can get outside the trade union movement. The training can sharpen you and even if you do not have a university degree you can be above those who have degrees. Tsvangirai got more than a PHD. Fetishism has killed this Country as people believe in papers on your walls. You may have degrees but they mean nothing if they are not used for the benefit of the country and its citizens. Tsvangirai proved it as he outsmarted everyone who had higher qualifications than him. Some even became jealous of him. He performed better than some of the professors like Lovemore Madhuku despite his limited academic education.

The last time I had one on one with him was when he was in the PM’s office. The ZCTU had asked me to take a trade union delegation from the Netherlands to meet him. He called his whole office to see me and he seemed surprised that I was still with the ZCTU . He still called me young man despite the fact that I was married and in my forties.

Morgan you were a great man. May your soul rest in peace. Surely one day someone will write a correct history of you. It might be me, who knows?

About the author

Byron Adonis Mutingwende