Harare – “Get well soon Save”, “We love you so much” and “I suggest you visit [prophet] TB Joshua again” – these were some of the knee-jerk reactions online from Zimbabweans to news that opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has cancer of the colon.
Save (pronounced Sav-eh) is one of the names Tsvangirai’s supporters call him, the name of the large river in the area the burly 64-year-old politician comes from in eastern Zimbabwe.
Rumours of Tsvangirai’s ill-health have been growing for a while, fuelled by his no-show at recent MDC events and by confirmation he went for an operation in South Africa last month.
Officials at the time downplayed the seriousness of his complaint, perhaps because the cancer was only diagnosed when he got to hospital in South Africa.
The announcement of cancer is “absolutely huge”, according to Zimbabwean journalist @nqabamatshazi.
It’s already inviting comparisons with Mugabe, who’s nearly three decades older than the man who came close to unseating him during elections in 2008. Tsvangirai himself made a barely-disguised dig at the president in his statement, saying – as did former education minister David Coltart who disclosed his own prostate cancer fears last month – that “the health of national leaders, including politicians, should not be a subject of national speculation and uncertainty”.
“Get well soon true son of the soil”
Mugabe makes frequent trips to Singapore for medical attention but has never disclosed the true nature of his complaint. Given the frequency and the length of his trips to Singapore, it is hard to believe that he is still suffering from the after-effects of what was said to be a cataract operation in 2014.
While Tsvangirai is being praised for his bravery in disclosing the exact nature of his complaint, he will also inevitably face questions about his ability to maintain the momentum needed to mount what will be a punishing campaign ahead of presidential elections in 2018.
Tsvangirai’s party has always said he will stand again against Mugabe, who at 92 also shows no sign of wanting to let another candidate fight the battle.
Tweeted @RangaMberi: “Chemotherapy will slow down even the toughest among us.
More power to him.” Tsvangirai has already begun chemo, according to his statement.
The MDC posted a picture of Tsvangirai with his wife Elizabeth in what looked very much like a clinic.
For now though, most Zimbabweans showed their concern for a man who has spent the last 17 years at the helm of the MDC.
As good wishes began to flood the opposition’s Facebook page minutes after the announcement was made public, Tawanda Mudhliwa posted: “Get well soon true son of the soil.”
Wrote Simba Mudzudza: “My prayer is for u to get well soon. The nation at large their hope is on u. Their happiness is on u. May the Almighty bless u to lead the Zimbabwe republic. l salute u since u started this journey. We are almost there. Don’t give up Save. Good day my president”.
Tozivashe Chiweshe said: “Warriors don’t cry. Soldier on Mr MDC. Zimbos are with you.”
There has been no reaction yet from the Zimbabwean authorities.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the world. Tsvangirai’s deputy in the party, Thokozani Khuphe is a cancer survivor herself: she fought breast cancer in 2011 and 2012, receiving some treatment in South Africa. Tsvangirai paid a visit to Nigerian televangelist TB Joshua in 2013. -News24