Philip Barclay and Grace Mutandwa


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Monday 16 March, 2009

Out of tragedy emerges national hope

In 1999 when I interviewed Susan Tsvangirai for a profile for a weekly independent paper, I was struck by how warm and easy to talk to she was.

Her husband, Morgan had just announced the formation of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). All the urban areas had been lit up in new hope, hope for a freer and democratic Zimbabwe. There was a possibility that she could become the country's next first lady and we were all curious about her.

I went to their humble home then in Harare's middle density suburb of Ashdown Park. She exuded motherly charm, had an enchanting smile and spoke lovingly of her children and husband. She was acutely aware of the fact that their lives would never be the same again because they would now be viewed as enemies of the ruling party and government.

When on Friday the 6th of March I heard she had died, I was shocked and for a very long time sat in a numbed state.

After that interview in 1999, I had seen and spoken to Susan on several occasions. Every time I saw her I came away thinking how lucky Morgan and his children were to havethis diamond in their lives. Even when her husband was being tried for treason or had been beaten up for standing up to the government, Susan had remained Morgan's greatest supporter and his rock of Gibraltar.

Even in death Susan proved beyond doubt that she was a remarkable woman. Thousands of people thronged her memorial service in Harare and a day later her burial ceremony at her husband's country home in Buhera. Susan was a humble and strong African woman who had a very strong sense of wrong and right. She was blessed with empathy, a value that is increasingly missing in some of our leaders.

Zimbabweans from all walks of life trudged on foot, some travelled on the back of old lorries, the latest vehicle models or on buses new and old. Diplomats came, so did cabinet ministers from Southern Africa, the civil society and the churches. The ceremony in Buhera was a celebration of the life of a woman described by leader of the smaller formation of the MDC, Arthur Mutambara, as the people's heroine and the mother of the nation.

A minister from Botswana speaking on behalf of her president, said this was not a moment for tears but one for strength. In a strong emotion filled voice, she said Susan's death should not be in vain but should be the foundation upon which reconciliation,economic and political recovery should be built.

The previous day at the church ceremony President Robert Mugabe had surprised many when he spoke like a father grieving with the whole nation.

Maybe out of this tragedy Zimbabwe will rise and be great again. Maybe the motherly spirit of Susan Tsvangirai will prove that with love and tolerance Zimbabweans have a future. Out of this tragedy that brought together people of different political persuasions, one could not help but sense an emergence of hope.

Susan's dedication to freedom and justice and a Zimbabwe that we can all be proud of, reflect the aspirations of all Zimbabweans.

She was not just the wife of a politician but a mother, sister, friend and activist who sacrificed her freedom by remaining at the side of a man once reviled by the ZANU PF government.

May the spirit of the mother of the nation rest in peace.

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What a bitter tragedy at a moment when there's hope for change. Everyone seems to have warm words for her.

Posted by OwenE2 on March 19, 2009 at 04:50 PM GMT #

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