HARARE – MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai was rushed to South Africa yesterday to seek medical attention days after the former trade unionist said he was fit to mount his election campaign ahead of a crucial 2018 vote, the Daily News can report.
The veteran politician — who has been picked to represent Zimbabwe’s opposition alliance in the presidential election expected early next year, his fourth time as a presidential candidate — was reportedly rushed to the Harare International Airport in an ambulance, before boarding a private plane to neighbouring South Africa.
He was said to be on a stretcher bed when he was taken onto the private plane around 2am yesterday, authoritative sources told the Daily News.
The social democrat, who has dominated Zimbabwean opposition politics since the formation of the MDC in 1999, was first diagnosed with cancer of the colon in June last year and has been undergoing treatment in Africa’s largest economy.
Tsvangirai — who was Zimbabwe’s prime minister in an uneasy coalition government with the 93-year-old Mugabe from 2009 until 2013 — has said after repeated cycles of treatment, he was fully fit at a crucial time when his health is the main wild card before the crucial 2018 presidential vote.
“Yes, Tsvangirai has been taken to South Africa for medical attention but for the rest, ask his spokesperson Luke (Tamborinyoka),” said a senior party official who requested anonymity.
Tsvangirai’s deputy, Nelson Chamisa, reportedly stood in for Tsvangirai during an MDC Alliance meeting in Kadoma yesterday.
Reached for comment, Chamisa referred questions to Tamborinyoka.
“We are just finishing a meeting of the MDC Alliance principals,” said Chamisa. “Get in touch with Luke, he will help you.”
Tamborinyoka declined to comment.
“I cannot comment on speculation,” he said.
Tsvangirai was last seen in public at Mtengwe Building in Gokwe South on Sunday, where he addressed an MDC Alliance rally.
He reportedly told the rally: “We should all unite as Zimbabweans to remove the devil amidst us because it would not help to say I belong to this or that party then we are all in the same pitfall.”
In remarks apparently pointed at his deputy Thokozani Khupe, who is protesting the consummation of the alliance over the distribution of seats, Tsvangirai said: “We are saying, while it is important to have Members of Parliament and councillors, it is critically important to get the grand prize and that grand prize is the one that would transform the lives of people.”
A Political Cooperation Agreement (PCA) signed by Tsvangirai along with six other parties — which makes no secret of the MDC’s dominance in the whole arrangement — there is a clause that seemingly looks beyond the increasingly frail opposition leader.
According to the PCA — which is the basis of the MDC Alliance — no-one outside the Tsvangirai-led MDC can take over from him in the event that he dies or gets incapacitated before next year’s polls.
Crucially, the deal secures the MDC’s leadership of the MDC Alliance in the event that a vacancy occurs at the top before or after the elections.
“In the event of a vacancy occurring for the presidency for whatever reasons before the election, then the alliance partners shall select another candidate and if such vacancy occurs after election then the provisions of the national constitution shall apply,” reads part of the PCA.
Tsvangirai recently opened up on his health to the Daily News.
“You know my hair just went out the other day. But I had stayed with my hair for almost eight (chemotherapy) sessions.
“I’m still under treatment. And as you can see, I am responding well to treatment,” he told the Daily News at his residence.
Patients undergoing chemotherapy often suffer side effects, including nausea and vomiting, which is usually controlled through antipsychotic or anti-vomiting medicine.
“I was so fortunate, I didn’t go through those, vomiting and all that, no I didn’t,” revealed the MDC leader.
The former prime minister said he was fortunate to be receiving treatment at the best cancer facility in South Africa but was quick to bemoan the steep treatment costs.
“That is why people die. It’s totally unsustainable,” he said.