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Morgan Tsvangirai

Tsvangirai, Morgan (chänˌgərĪˈ) [key], 1952–, Zimbabwean trade unionist and political leader. In the 1970s, while working in a nickel mine, he joined the Associated Mineworkers Union. Rising through the ranks, he was elected (1988) secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, and a decade later (1997–98) led a series of crippling strikes precipitated by high taxes. The strikes led the trade union congress to break with the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF). Tsvangirai resigned (1999) his union post to help found the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), a political party opposed to President Robert Mugabe and the ZANU-PF.

As head of the MDC, Tsvangirai ran for president in 2002 and was defeated, many believe by fraud and intimidation. He also was charged with treason for an alleged assassination plot against Mugabe; he was acquitted, charged with treason again (2003), kept in virtual house arrest, and again acquitted (2004). The MDC split in 2005, and Tsvangirai headed its larger faction; it was reunited after the 2008 elections. In 2007 he was arrested and savagely beaten by Zimbabwean police. He again ran for president in the Mar., 2008, election. The MDC won a parliamentary plurality, and Tsvangirai won a plurality in the presidential contest, triggering a runoff. Subsequent widespread violence against his supporters and threats against himself led Tsvangirai to withdraw from the runoff. A power-sharing agreement in Sept., 2008, called for Tsvangirai to become prime minister; the installation of the government stalled over the assignment of cabinet posts, but he took office in Feb., 2009. The government (2009–13), however, suffered from tensions between ZANU-PF, which fundamentally was not committed to the coalition, and the MDC. In 2013 he again lost the presidential race, which once again was marred by irregularities.

See S. Chang, Citizen of Africa: Conversations with Morgan Tsvangirai (2005); biography by S. Hudleston (2005).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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See more Encyclopedia articles on: Southern African History: Biographies


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