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Trecherous road, tensions and eulogies:

25 Feb 2018 at 04:59hrs | Views
The road to former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Buhera homestead is symbolic of his life - it meanders and is littered with potholes that have claimed many victims since time immemorial.

Years ago, the Masvingo highway claimed the life of his wife Susan, leaving him dejected and having to fight political foes without what many at the funeral called "a pillar of his life".

Even on this day, February 19, many of Tsvangirai's supporters who had taken time to drive to Buhera for his burial, set for the following day, counted their losses as potholes tore tyres and ball joints bolted out of suspensions, leaving them stranded and swearing at the government for having neglected the highway for a long time.

Some slept by the roadside under light showers.

Even in death one of the MDC-T leader's deputies Elias Mudzuri had this to say: "Tsvangirai would still be respected enough for people to sleep in the open for him. He was humble as a man and we, his supporters, would be humble enough not to be bothered by the 'landmines' set for us on this road."

Rain was a theme most associated with the soothing effect on the national pain following the death of the opposition's leader.

It would be what acting president Nelson Chamisa alluded to as a sign that an important man had rested.

It rained for the better part of the burial ceremony.

The Masvingo highway defied the patches by roadworks that were meant to heal the gaping wounds it has from the tollgate just outside Harare to the Buhera turnoff that leads to Humanikwa - Tsvangirai's home area - because rain kept resuscitating the potholes by nudging at the cheap tar that is, at most, a week's solution to the death-traps that motorists fear and have been victims of.

Many reached Humanikwa and others never did.

The tarred road to Humanikwa is not for the faint at heart.

It is a neglected road that takes from where Masvingo road leaves.

It has potholes that have become a part of the driving experience and it had its fair share of motorists that slept in their cars after hitting one too many potholes.

But Tsvangirai was spoilt on his last journey to his resting place.

He dodged all the hazards by being flown at the expense of the government.

Thousands attended the burial and thousands walked for about 3km from the main road to the burial site.

Tsvangirai's neighbours suffered destruction of their maize and groundnut crop.

Nobody complained because the community was too grieved to bother.

At the funeral procession that was held at Makanda Primary School, speakers took turns to eulogise their hero.

MDC-T vice-president Thokozani Khupe shed tears apparently frustrated by the youths that detained her together with secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora for over three hours in a hut. She claimed the MDC youths wanted to burn them alive.

She sat at the VIP table wearing dark glasses as she did at Freedom Square but she was clearly not happy and occasionally wiped away tears.

She later told the media: "They told me that I am a dissident and I must go back to Matabeleland.

"They did this because I am a woman and I am from Matabeleland where they think a leader cannot be born.

I do not recognise Nelson Chamisa as the acting president of the party."

The funeral had started not as seamlessly as it should, ironically a reflection of the opposition in the recent past.

Chamisa, at the instigation of the family, was forced to apologise for traditional protocols that were violated when the coffin was whisked away from Tsvangirai's house where it lay in state overnight.

"That should not have happened. Either it was a thief in our midst or someone who is not cultured.

One of us," he said visibly shaken.

And before the matter had settled, Tsvangirai's brother Manase was to take to the stage with vitriol directed at the media that left many shocked and some fearing for their lives as every word was met with robust applause by the supporters of the opposition.

some called for reporters to be disciplined.

He said: "I want to address the media.

Let me be open with you.

We were not happy when you interrogated Gogo Tsvangirai (Morgan's mother infamous for banning Chamisa and Tsvangirai's widow Elizabeth Macheka from attending the funeral) on her alighting from the helicopter.

"Some of you are uncultured for harassing an 89-year-old mourning a national hero.

If I knew your name, I would have chucked you out of here. Respect us."

But perhaps the best soundbite came from an animated former deputy prime minister Arthur Mutambara who dragged his words in a fashion akin to those adopted mostly by American hip-hop artistes.

He drew laughter and anger.

"We are here to mourn the president of Zimbabwe, Tsvangirai - a great Zimbabwean and great African.

What does it mean when we say Tsvangirai was a great man?" He said to applause before answering himself: "Bravery, courage!

He suffered at the hands of Zanu-PF.

Zanu-PF are here. They murdered Morgan."

Environment minister Oppah Muchinguri and Monica Mutsvangwa, Zanu-PF's women's league chairperson, looked on half-amused and half-annoyed as Mutambara pointed at them when he mentioned that the late MDC-T leader was murdered by his political rivals.

When Muchinguri took to the podium she had to be rescued by Chamisa after supporters roundly booed her.

"Tsvangirai valued his nation.

He wanted the country to prosper.

Having worked with him in government and in the constitution-making process that led to the respect of women in politics, we are grateful for his work," she said.

"We are happy that he supported women in politics. We celebrate his good work."

In all the speeches nobody acknowledged Tsvangirai's widow Elizabeth Macheka amid whispers that she had been barred from sleeping in the same room with her husband's casket.

Some said, that she needed helpers to accompany her to be able to attend the funeral.

Speakers from the Tsvangirai family acknowledged relatives of their sister-in-law Tsvangirai's first wife Susan Mhundwa, who died in an accident in 2009.

Only when Chamisa spoke to close the eulogies session later in the afternoon did he look at Macheka to acknowledge her presence and she got cheering from supporters because she is said to be politically correct in her support of favoured Chamisa.

But before then, as the sun rose to briefly give relief to the rain-soaked clothes of those who braved the rains, Kenyan opposition leader and Tsvangirai's close friend, Raila Odinga, was warming up people with his message of solidarity.

He urged the opposition to take what Zanu-PF is doing well and allow partnerships.

The targets of his message had not known whether to be tolerant or not. They listened on.

He added: "We need to have clear and proper transparent elections in Africa.

Rigged elections will not help Africa," to big applause.

"Morgan's election victory was stolen a year after mine was stolen in Kenya," Odinga said, referring to the 2007 elections, which he alleges were rigged to ensure Uhuru Kenyatta's victory.

At last Tsvangirai was laid to rest, but there was no doubt MDC Alliance needed to do a lot of soul-searching.

Source - the standard
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