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.


China tests Mars lander in international cooperation push

Updated 1 min 15 sec ago

China tests Mars lander in international cooperation push

  • China plans to launch a lander and rover to Mars next year to explore parts of the planet in detail
  • China’s burgeoning space program achieved a lunar milestone earlier this year by landing a probe on the mysterious far side of the moon
HUAILAI, China: China invited international observers to a Thursday test of its Mars lander as it pushes for inclusion in more global space projects.

The demonstration of hovering, obstacle avoidance and deceleration capabilities was conducted at a site outside Beijing simulating conditions on the Red Planet, where the pull of gravity is about one-third that of Earth.

China plans to launch a lander and rover to Mars next year to explore parts of the planet in detail.

China’s burgeoning space program achieved a lunar milestone earlier this year by landing a probe on the mysterious far side of the moon.

It has developed rapidly, especially since it conducted its first crewed mission in 2003 and has sought cooperation with space agencies from Europe and elsewhere.

The US, however, has banned most space cooperation with China out of national security concerns, keeping China from participating in the International Space Station.

Despite that, China’s ambitions continue to grow as it seeks to rival the US, Russia and Europe in space and cement its position as a regional and global power.

Guests at Thursday’s event came from 19 countries and included the ambassadors of Brazil, France and Italy.

“This event is the first public appearance of China’s Mars exploration mission, also an important measure for China to pragmatically carry out space international exchanges and cooperation,” the China National Space Administration said in a news release.