CLAD in a red shirt and with a radiant smile, MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai walked up to the dais at the giant White City Stadium and the bumper crowd went into frenzy.
It was the MDC President’s first public appearance after naysayers had sought to malign and soil his image so as to sow doubt on his eligibility as the next President of the Republic.
Against the backdrop of two damning surveys and a love life some had sought to turn into political fodder, some papers had even dubbed the 13th anniversary celebrations as a “litmus test.”
Sceptics and naysayers were looking forward to a non-event in the City of Kings. But the people of Bulawayo had other ideas. They walked from Makokoba to listen to the man whom they know has their interest at heart. They drove from Gwanda to listen to the only man who represents the future. They came all the way from South Africa to listen to the next President. They came all the way from Botswana to celebrate the 13th birthday of this great party which added value to the government after Zanu PF had run out of ideas in 2008.
Yes, they came to listen to Morgan Tsvangirai, who remains a mortal human being with his own frailties but who Zimbabweans know carries the best interests of this country in his heart.
President Tsvangirai touched the hearts of many with his narration of the tortuous journey the MDC had travelled in the last 13 years and how, in a twist of fate, the MDC and its leaders had moved from the periphery to the centre of the national discourse.
“In 13 years, we have morphed from a small movement founded on the vision of a people’s quest for freedom and good governance to the largest party in the country with Cabinet Ministers, mayors, councillors and with the biggest representation in a Parliament chaired by a Speaker from our party,” the MDC President told the ecstatic crowd.
“Five years ago, I was a battered prisoner in a police cell but today I stand before you as Prime Minister of the country and President of the biggest political party in Zimbabwe.”
While the MDC President was delivering his speech, the carnival atmosphere and the crowd at white City were making their own statement.The major lesson at the 13th anniversary was that despite a tumultuous three weeks, Tsvangirai remains the people’s hope.
Despite attacks on the brand, the people are still able to identify with Tsvangirai, a humble leader who openly showed contrition and publicly apologised if anyone had been hurt during his long and painful search for a life partner.It takes a great leader to show remorse especially when those who killed and maimed over 20,000 people in Matabeleland glossed it over as a “moment of madness” and have not apologised to anyone.
Tsvangirai remains a humble man. He had spent four days with ordinary Zimbabweans in the countryside before he reasserted his status as the embodiment of the people’s aspirations with that mammoth crowd in Bulawayo.
On Thursday, he had spent the day in Chipinge where he addressed people and shared emotional moments with the Ndau community at the burial of Senator Rimbi, a former chief in this community of marginalised people.
On Friday and early Saturday morning, the PM had meetings with the church and the civic community in Bulawayo where they discussed issues affecting the people of Matabeleland.Spending time with ordinary Zimbabweans is the Prime Minister’s favourite pastime.
I have worked with the Prime Minister for the past seven years and I know that his best natural setting is when he is among ordinary people; sharing with them the trials and tribulations of life; discussing and defining the vision of a future country full of hope, progress and economic prosperity.After all, his was an ordinary upbringing in Buhera before he embarked on a working life in the three cities of Mutare, Bindura and Harare.
He has always been very ordinary and that is why at Trojan Mine today, they still remember how they used to play with him tsoro yemakomba.
Last year, while on a working visit to Mutare, I noticed the nostalgic gait as he sat in his old bachelor’s quarters in Chisamba 4 where he stayed way back in 1973. That is the Morgan Tsvangirai who Zimbabweans voted for in 2008 and for who they will vote in the next election – a people’s leader in whom the people themselves. Through their sheer numbers last weekend, they sent a clear political message that their future can only be safe under his leadership.
That is Morgan Tsvangirai for you, the man who told the bumper crowd in Bulawayo how he had been moved early that morning by an ordinary woman who broke down as she narrated how her family suffered following the NRZ failure to pay workers for six months.
If the crowd at the 13th anniversary celebrations was going to be a “test” as the Zimbabwe Independent had put it the day before, then Tsvangirai passed with flying colours!
Luke Tamborinyoka is the Principal Director of Communications and spokesperson to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org