Zimbabwean presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai is hoping to unseat President Robert Mugabe at the July 31 poll. The election will be Tsvangirai's third attempt to oust the 89-year-old who has ruled since 1980.
The eldest of nine children, Morgan Tsvangirai was born in Southern Rhodesia on March 10, 1952. He undertook his early education at St. Marks Goneso and Chikara Primary Schools, before attending secondary school at Gokomere High.
Upon completing his education in 1973, Tsvangirai began work at the Trojan Nickel Mine where he was an active member of the Associated Mineworkers Union.
When Southern Rhodesia gained independence from Britain in 1980, and the Republic of Zimbabwe was formally proclaimed, 28-year-old Tsvangirai joined the ZANU-PF party headed by Robert Mugabe. An ardent Mugabe supporter, Tsvangirai quickly rose to become one of the party's senior officials.
In 1988, after working his way through union ranks, he was elected to the position of secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), the national federation of trade unions.
Opposed to Mugabe's planned taxation policy, Tsvangirai successfully led a series of strikes against the president in 1997-98. After 12 years serving as chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly, a non-governmental organization formed to support the creation of a new Zimbabwean constitution, Tsvangirai resigned to form a party in opposition to Mugabe. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was born with the support of the ZCTU, a former ally of Mugabe's ZANU-PF.
Zimbabwe's nationwide referendum in February 2000 was a coup for Tsvangirai and his party, as it helped them garner the support needed to defeat the government's controversial constitutional reform bill which included sections to extend Mugabe's rule and expropriate farms from white landholders. Four months later, at the national parliamentary elections, Tsvangirai's MDC party provided one of the most serious opposition challenges in the country's history, winning almost as many seats as ZANU-PF.
Shortly before the 2002 presidential election, Tsvangirai was charged with treason for allegedly plotting Mugabe's assassination. After a long trial, he was acquitted for lack of evidence. After calling for mass protests to overthrow the president in 2003, Tsvangirai was again charged with treason, but acquitted at trial.
Differences of opinion over the role the MDC should play in the national Senate elections led to a division within the party, one faction was led by Tsvangirai, the other by Arthur Mutambara, a former student protest leader. Attempts to resolve the dispute within party ranks was met with little success.
Brutally beaten leader
Tsvangirai, along with other MDC officials was brutally attacked by Zimbabwean police in March 2007 as he made his way to a prayer meeting being held at a local church. Lawyer Tendai Biti, the Secretary-General of the MDC and an MP for Harare East, was one of those arrested along with Tsvangirai. Beaten to the point where he suffered a cracked skull, Biti says Tsvangirai "must have passed out at least three times" as a result of the attack.
Zimbabwe held presidential, parliamentary, and local elections on March 29, 2008. The MDC released its own results tally which indicated a win for their candidate. Tsvangirai was forced to flee the country days later when a plot to kill him was made public.
More than a month on, and after much international pressure, the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission released the results of the presidential election. The outcome; Tsvangirai, 47.9-percent, Mugabe, 43.2-percent. As neither side secured a majority, a run-off election was called for June.
A discouraged but determined Tsvangirai returned to Zimbabwe in mid-May 2008 to continue his campaign for presidency. In the weeks leading up to the runoff election, Tsvangirai was repeatedly detained by police, even seeking refuge at the Dutch Embassy in Harare. Wary of an increase in violence, Tsvangirai announced he would withdraw from the election campaign. At the time, he said, under the country's current political climate there was an impossibility that the run-off election would be free and fair.
Regardless, the election was held and Mugabe emerged triumphant with 90.2-percent of the vote. Election Commission figures indicated only 42-percent of Zimbabweans voted.
Birth of a coalition
International condemnation followed the release of the run-off election results. Calls were made for the MDC and ZANU-PF to form a power-sharing government. After weeks of negotiations between both Mugabe and Tsvangirai, along with MDC President Arthur Mutambara an agreement was finally reached; Mugabe would remain president, with some power ceded to Tsvangirai, who would serve as the country's prime minister. Mutambara would act as deputy prime minister.
In March 2009, while travelling to his rural home along with his wife, their car was involved in a head-on collision. His wife of 31-years was killed instantly, while Tsvangirai sustained non-life-threatening injuries. He married his second wife, Elizabeth Macheka, in September 2012.