Zimbabwe's main opposition leader hints at stepping aside

AP News
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Posted: Jan 08, 2018 10:36 AM
Zimbabwe's main opposition leader hints at stepping aside

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe's main opposition leader on Monday dropped the biggest hint yet he could step down from his party, setting the stage for an election scenario not witnessed since 2002.

Morgan Tsvangirai, who is battling colon cancer, has led the MDC-T party since its formation in 1999. A popular figure, he became prime minister between 2009 and 2013 in a unity government after he beat then-President Robert Mugabe in a 2008 election but without enough votes to avoid a second round. He boycotted the runoff, alleging military-led violence against his supporters.

In a statement, Tsvangirai said he is "looking at the imminent prospects of us as the older generation leaving the levers of leadership to allow the younger generation to take forward this huge task."

If he retires, as is widely expected, this year's presidential election will be the first without a duel between Tsvangirai and Mugabe since 2002. Only a few months ago both insisted they would stand in the election.

The 93-year-old Mugabe resigned in November under pressure from the military and the ruling party amid fears that his unpopular wife was positioning herself to succeed him in power.

New President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week met with Tsvangirai, whose health appeared to have deteriorated.

"We must recognize the imperative that new hands, with the full blessing of the people, must take this struggle and this country forward with the destination remaining the same," said Tsvangirai, who has routinely traveled to neighboring South Africa for treatment since 2016.