HARARE – Irrepressible opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai — the only politician to beat President Robert Mugabe in an election hands down — says he has fully recovered from his recent illness and is champing at the bit to take Zanu PF head-on in the make-or-break 2018 national elections.
This comes as the resurgent MDC leader is involved in coalition talks with other serious opposition players, including former vice president Joice Mujuru — as he makes another determined bid to topple Mugabe and his warring Zanu PF from power in the watershed 2018 polls.
Tsvangirai — who was diagnosed with colon cancer last year, forcing him to undergo urgent and costly treatment in neighbouring South Africa — told the Daily News in an interview on Monday that he was now “fully fit again” and impatient to take on Mugabe in next year’s elections.
Once again opening up on his health, the 65-year-old former prime minister in the stability-inducing Government of National Unity said he could not thank God, his wife Elizabeth, his family, friends, well-wishers and his medical team enough for nursing him back to full health.
He described the pain and the anguish that he had gone through at the height of his illness as “excruciating” — adding that the entire period had been “one of the most difficult phases of my life”.
And now that he was back, fully fit, he would soon escalate his campaigns for 2018, to make sure that Mugabe and Zanu PF did not “subvert the people’s will again” as had happened in 2008 and 2013.
“I am feeling great. I have just come back from a medical check-up (in South Africa), and although my doctor said we still needed to do more tests, he said I’m doing well and I feel fine.
“Of course, life is always in God’s hands and cancer is an unpredictable disease . . . which can mutate. But as of now, I feel fully recovered and I’m raring to go,” Tsvangirai said.
He also observed that cancer was on the rise in sub-Saharan Africa, including Zimbabwe — which meant that people needed to look after themselves better and be always mindful of their lifestyles and health.
“Previously, cancer almost always meant certain death, but now people are finding long-lasting solutions. Of course, it’s important that people diagnosed with the disease, like all others who are unwell, are able to get all the necessary support medically and socially, which is why Zimbabwe must now come right,” he said.
Tsvangirai’s re-assertion that he has fully recovered is likely to lift the spirits of millions of his supporters further, after he stunned them in May last year when he announced that he was suffering from cancer of the colon — before having successful surgery in South Africa.
The visibly recovered MDC leader also told his supporters late last year that he was back to full fitness.
“If we can defeat cancer, we can defeat Zanu PF. I am feeling very healthy now and I am confident that we are going to win the 2018 elections.
“Some have said the MDC has no post-election plan of how to take this country forward. Today, I want to run you through our major areas of focus when, and not if we form the next government,” the upbeat Tsvangirai said then.
Until recently, Tsvangirai had been written off as yesterday’s man by his detractors, many of whom also crassly wished that he would never recover from his illness.
Among the mean-spirited Zanu PF officials and other ruling party apparatchiks who showed little empathy to him when he was diagnosed with cancer were maverick Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister, Mandiitawepi Chimene, and a few State media retards.
Bizarrely too, Chimene said then that the MDC leader was being punished for having allegedly wished Mugabe dead — which was a patently false claim.
“Tsvangirai is suffering with cancer. It’s payback time for wishing president . . . Mugabe to die, but Mugabe does not have cancer. Who are we to question God’s will?” she said.
Speaking in his interview with the Daily News on Monday, the bullish Tsvangirai also vowed to finish off Mugabe and Zanu PF in next year’s elections — adding that he stood ready to lead the planned opposition coalition alliance.
He said he had “no doubt whatsoever” that the MDC — working together with other opposition parties — would, like it did in 2008, once again defeat Zanu PF in 2018 and bring to an end Mugabe’s long but tumultuous rule.
“I stand ready to heed the calls by Zimbabweans that I lead . . . Indeed, when I moved across the country, the people said I should lead.
“So, if that is what people want, then I am ready to lead the coalition. But this should not be about individuals but about Zimbabwe.
“Indeed, the fight for democracy in Zimbabwe is not between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, but between long-suffering Zimbabweans and a heartless, looting Zanu PF,” Tsvangirai said.
“The commitment towards forming a grand coalition is there . . . But we must exercise due diligence in regard to our partners.
“Imagine at the end, just before elections you have people who will say ‘I was not part of the talks’ . . . so due diligence is very important,” added the dogged former labour union leader, as he explained why it was taking long to conclude the mooted coalition talks.
Analysts have said that a united opposition, fighting with one purpose, can finally bring to an end Mugabe’s long rule, especially at a time that the nonagenarian is fighting to keep together his warring Zanu PF.
Tsvangirai has emerged in the last few months as the preferred candidate to lead the planned electoral alliance, after getting wringing endorsements from virtually all of the country’s serious opposition players.
Last week, Mujuru — who now leads the National People’s Party (NPP) — moved decisively to dispel doubts about who should lead the coalition when she also endorsed him.
Analysts have also consistently said Mujuru, whose liberation struggle nom de guerre was Teurai Ropa (Spill Blood), and whose late husband Solomon was the first black post-independence army commander, could provide the much-needed bridge that opposition parties have been missing to ensure the smooth transfer of power if they win the 2018 elections like they did in 2008.