BUHERA: Thousands of people gathered on Tuesday for the burial of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, whose death from cancer exacerbated divisions within a movement preparing for elections just months away.
A hearse carrying Tsvangirai’s body in a white casket drove slowly through the crowds to a school ground near his rural home in Buhera.
Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga paid tribute to his friend for the “tremendous contribution he made to the democratisation of Zimbabwe despite paying dearly for this to happen”.
“Tsvangirai and his family suffered a lot but, all I am saying is that we need to see a new leadership in Zimbabwe,” he said.
“Zanu PF must do away with the policies of Mr Robert Mugabe and try to embrace change. There is need for a level plain field in the electoral processes so that it can work together with opposition.”
Odinga urged the ruling party to ensure that the upcoming elections are held in a transparent manner.
“My appeal is to have Zanu PF work together with MDC and other political parties in a conducive environment so as to achieve a free and fair election.
“This is a message I want to avail to you all as I bid farewell to Tsvangirai.”
Zanu PF should work together with the MDC-T … Raila Odinga (centre) addresses the crowd
Rival leaders have vied for control of the opposition MDC-T party after the death last week of Tsvangirai, a long-time opponent of former President Robert Mugabe who once entered into a flawed power-sharing arrangement with him after disputed elections.
“Our leaders are going to unite,” Nelson Chamisa, the new head of the opposition party, said at the burial.
He said he had a condolence letter from Mugabe but refused the crowd’s calls that he read it and instead handed it to a member of Tsvangirai’s family.
Chamisa’s authority has been challenged by two other MDC officials, Thokozani Khuphe and former Harare mayor Elias Mudzuri.
The MDC-T party holds the second-largest number of seats in parliament.
Meanwhile, several high-profile figures attended the burial, among them Zanu PF chairperson Oppah Muchinguri, Manicaland provincial minister Monica Mutsvangwa, former central bank chief Gideon Gono, musician Oliver Mtukudzi and South African political analyst Moletsi Mbeki.
Opposition leaders from Namibia, Kenya and Zambia as well as ambassadors from the United States, Australia, Canada, Britain and other European countries also turned up to bid Tsvangirai farewell.