Hundreds welcome Zimbabwe opposition leader’s body

Supporters of Zimbabwe’s main opposition party The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) attend a memorial service to mourn the passing of former Prime Minister and Morgan Tsvangirai in Bulawayo on Feb. 17, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 17 February 2018

Hundreds welcome Zimbabwe opposition leader’s body

HARARE: Hundreds thronged Zimbabwe’s main airport Saturday as the body of opposition icon Morgan Tsvangirai, who died of cancer in neighboring South Africa, arrived home for burial.
Tsvangirai, a fearless opponent to the ruling ZANU-PF party, died on Wednesday at the age of 65 after a lengthy battle with colon cancer.
Supporters and officials from his Movement for Democratic Change party, gathered at Robert Mugabe International Airport, broke into Christian hymns and party songs as the plane bearing his remains landed.
“We have received the body of our president, our hero, our icon, our patriot and great leader,” said one of Tsvangirai’s three deputies Nelson Chamisa.
The body was taken to a military camp where the bodies of national heroes lie in state before burial.
Tsvangirai will be buried on Tuesday in his rural home in Buhera, 250 kilometers (150 miles) south of Harare.
Opposition compatriots earlier held memorial services in the capital Harare and in the second city of Bulawayo to honor Tsvangirai who was often derided by former president Robert Mugabe as “a stooge of the west.”
In Bulawayo, Tsvangirai’s former deputy Welshman Ncube praised Tsvangirai for forgiving even his persecutors in government who beat him up.
“He had no bitterness at all, no bitterness that over the years they vilified him, arrested him, beat him and laid treason charges against him,” Ncube said. “He was selfless.”
He said Tsvangirai called him to his house in January and hinted that he would not live to see the country’s upcoming elections expected by July this year.
“The meeting was very emotional. He said ‘Let us be realistic. I won’t make it. I won’t be with you in this campaign’.” The election is the first to held without Robert Mugabe in nearly four decades.
Tsvangirai was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2016.
The former trade union stalwart led the MDC since its formation in 1999, posing the most formidable challenge to ZANU-PF’s nearly four-decade rule.
In 2008, he beat long-time ruler Mugabe in the first round of presidential elections, narrowly come short of garnering enough votes to be declared outright winner.
However he then pulled out of the second round of voting, which was marred by violence including the killing of around 200 opposition supporters.
Tsvangirai’s death came as tensions over his succession are threatening to tear the MDC apart handing an advantage to President Emmerson Mnangagwa who took over from Mugabe following a military takeover in November.


Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov to meet with Mike Pompeo next week

Updated 1 min 11 sec ago

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov to meet with Mike Pompeo next week

  • Pompeo and Lavrov would discuss arms control, the situations in Ukraine and Syria and other issues related to tense US-Russia relations: unnamed officials
  • Pompeo and Lavrov have met several times in the past year, including in New York and in Russia
WASHINGTON: Russia’s foreign minister will visit Washington next week for talks with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, US officials said Friday.
Pompeo will host Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday for talks that are expected to be followed by a joint news conference, two officials said. It was not immediately clear if Lavrov planned other meetings during the trip, which was first speculated about in Russian media Thursday. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the planned meeting.
The officials said Pompeo and Lavrov would discuss arms control, the situations in Ukraine and Syria and other issues related to tense US-Russia relations. But the trip is likely to be overshadowed by Ukraine-related impeachment proceedings that are picking up steam in the House, as well as the release Monday of the Justice Department inspector general’s report into the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Lawmakers are expected to soon draft articles of impeachment that allege Trump abused his power by withholding military aid to Ukraine unless its new leader pledged to investigate the son of his political rival Joe Biden.
Although the impeachment inquiry centers on Ukraine, which is fighting Russian-backed separatists in its east, Russia has been a major topic in the proceedings. Numerous witnesses have told investigators that Trump’s defenders are echoing a Russian disinformation campaign by accusing Ukraine of meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump and his supporters have repeatedly called for investigations into alleged Ukrainian interference in the election despite the intelligence community’s conclusion that Moscow was behind it.
Pompeo and Lavrov have met several times in the past year, including in New York and in Russia. They have spoken by phone infrequently but have not held face-to-face talks in Washington.
Pompeo was not secretary of state the last time Lavrov was in Washington, when the Russian diplomat visited the White House with the former Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, and had a meeting with Trump in May 2017. That meeting occurred a day after Trump had fired then-FBI director James Comey, a move that led to the investigation into Russian meddling in the election by special counsel Robert Mueller.