Basildon Peta: Susan Tsvangirai - An ordinary woman with extraordinary charm

Share
Related Topics

What I most admired about Susan Tsvangirai was that she knew that the success of your family was dependent on the success of your country. She never moaned about what life was like for her and her children and the risks that came from living with Robert Mugabe's nemesis. It was always about the children of Zimbabwe. It was a typical caring and motherly attitude that Zimbabwe had always wanted from its First Lady but never got.

She was a total contrast to Grace Mugabe. Where Grace was known for her extravagance, her shopping sprees, her love of designer labels, Susan was an ordinary woman who wore ordinary clothes and lived an ordinary lifestyle. When Morgan Tsvangirai won the first round of the presidential elections last year, and looked poised to oust Mr Mugabe, people flocked to Susan offering to groom her for her new role, remodel her hairdo and update her wardrobe. She was actually annoyed by these overtures, these attempts to curry favour.

I visited the Tsvangirais several times before I was forced to flee from Zimbabwe. They lived in a simple three-bedroom house – a far cry from the multimillion-dollar Mugabe mansion. Whenever you were in their company, you got this sense of a perfect union. On one occasion in 1997 – after her husband had survived an attempt to throw him out of a 10th-floor window – Susan was tenderly changing his bandages. Her love and affection was very touching.

She was not part of the political machine, and bar the odd appearance at party rallies, she preferred to stay out of the limelight, but their commitment to each other was never in doubt. For a woman who lived with death threats, intimidation by security forces and a string of attempts on her husband's life, she kept an impeccable sense of calm and never forgot the importance of good humour.

During the third treason case against Morgan in 2007, his wife confided: "Look, it's difficult for me, but I have no choice but to support the cause my husband is fighting for." It was the cause she believed in and she thought her husband was doing the right thing. If it was not for her support, it would have been very difficult for Morgan to remain engaged.

He once said that the best decision he had made in his life was to marry Susan. Her death is going to devastate him. He's a very strong character, he has felt first-hand the worst that repression can offer, and he bears innumerable scars of his struggle against Mugabe.

But this is going to crush him. I just cannot imagine the pain and hurt that he's going to feel, and it is going to make his already difficult task of being Prime Minister even harder.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: A huge step forward in medical science, but we're not all the way there yet

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
David Cameron has painted a scary picture of what life would be like under a Labour government  

You want constitutional change? Fixed-term parliaments have already done the job

Steve Richards
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album