The late MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai’s mother caused a scene at Robert Mugabe Square in Harare yesterday when she refused to disembark from the hearse carrying the body of her son at a send-off ceremony for party supporters.
Efforts to make her disembark from the vehicle and join other family members and party officials at the high table were fruitless.
This came as Mr Tsvangirai’s son, Edwin, in his speech at the venue told MDC-T officials and supporters to respect the family.
Gogo Tsvangirai seemed to stick to her words when she declared at the weekend that she did not want her daughter-in-law Ms Elizabeth Macheka and controversially appointed acting party leader Mr Nelson Chamisa at the funeral. She even said she did not want to hear Mr Chamisa speak.
When the hearse carrying Mr Tsvangirai’s remains arrived at the venue, people were expecting to see Gogo Tsvangirai joining the high-table reserved for family members, party leadership and dignitaries. But this was not to be, as she did not disembark from the vehicle.
This sent conflicting signals in the gathering, with some suggesting that she snubbed the occasion, while others claimed it was for security reasons.
Gogo Tsvangirai could be seen eating bananas in the vehicle, as the casket bearing the body of Mr Tsvangirai remained in the vehicle throughout the proceedings.
There were fears that once the casket was taken out of the hearse, MDC-T youths could pounce and seize it.
Speakers spoke glowingly of the MDC-T leader, describing him as “the champion of democracy.”
Edwin described his father as a man imbued with great humility and unifier, who struggled for democracy.
He urged the MDC-T members to protect his father’s legacy by ensuring a non-violent election this year. “My father was a very powerful man, who fought for democracy,” he said. “MDC, respect us as a family. Desist from violence. My father advocated for unity, let us stop fighting.”
Master of ceremony Mr Abednego Bhebhe seemed to have forgotten to recognise the presence of MDC-T co-vice presidents Engineer Elias Mudzuri and Dr Thokozani Khupe.
He only did so after a reminder.
Eng Mudzuri and Dr Khupe are fighting for the control of the party with Mr Chamisa in the wake of the demise of Mr Tsvangirai.
Each of the three claims to be the interim leader of the opposition party.
Former Zambian Labour Minister Fackson Shamande, a close friend of Mr Tsvangirai, described him as a courageous man who was committed to democracy.
He said he advised Mr Tsvangirai against joining the inclusive Government in 2008.
“He said to me the best way to heal our wounds is to put our differences aside,” said Mr Shamande.
“I told him not to join the unity government. I said to him you will be dribbled. They are going to use you as a shield and come next elections you will not stand a chance.”
When Mr Chamisa took to the podium, he dwelt on the envisaged split of the party.
“We hear some people saying the party will split,” he said. “This old man (Tsvangirai) was a unifier. This party is not for Chamisa, it is not for Khupe, Mudzuri, Moyo, Mwonzora, Komichi or anyone in the leadership. It is the people’s party.”
“Yes there can be fighting among the top leadership but that does not mean that the party is collapsing.”
After the speech most people, including Eng Mudzuri jostled to shake hands with Mr Chamisa.
Dr Khupe remained glued to her seat.
When the proceedings ended, Dr Khupe was the first to leave the podium.
Former deputy Prime Minister Professor Arthur Mutambara, Professor Lovemore Madhuku, Dr Munyaradzi Gwisai, former Masvingo Provincial Affairs Minister Paul Chimedza, MDC Alliance leaders and civic organisations groups attended the ceremony.