Morgan Tsvangirai, born in 1952, is the son of a bricklayer and worked initially as a miner before coming into the public eye as a key figure in Zimbabwe’s trade union movement.
In the late 1990s, he was working as secretary general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and led various strikes against rising taxes.
He founded the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, an opposition party to Mugabe’s ZANU-PF in 1999.
He first ran against President Mugabe, unsuccessfully, in 2002. International critics claimed that it was the government’s campaign of intimidation against the MDC, combined with subversion of the electoral process that ensured Mugabe’s victory.
As leader of the main opposition party, Tsvangirai has been charged with treason, of plotting to kill the President, and has been subject to physical assaults.
In March 2008, he ran for President again, securing 47.8 percent of the vote over Mugabe’s 43.2 percent, but claimed that he had won a majority and that the figures may have been altered in the month between the election and the official release of the results.
A run-off election was required and set for June, but he he pulled out before the poll, saying the vote would be neither free nor fair due to violence and intimidation of his party members and supporters. His seat as Prime Minister was secured with the support of the international community. The two entered power-sharing negotiations in September 2008. Points of contention included MDC accusations that Mugabe ZANU-PF had too much influence over the security sector. He was eventually sworn in as Prime Minister in February, 2009
In March, 2009, Tsvangirai and his wife were in a tragic car accident which resulted in her death; he sustained non-life-threatening injuries.
Since becoming Prime Minister, Tsvangirai has done much to drum up international support, including tours in Europe and the USA, and to many of Zimbabwe’s neighbours.
Since 2009, he has pushed for the easing of EU sanctions imposed on many prominent Zimbabwean businesses and individuals. His efforts eventually paid off, with the removal in early 2013 of 81 of the 91 names on the EU sanctions list. This is considered a reward for the coalition government’s progress and a promising indication of Zimbabwe’s improving international relations.
The coalition has by no means been smooth, with Mugabe openly opposing it and the ZANU-PF accused of disregarding much of the power-sharing deal. Tsvangirai threatened to pull out of the unity government in October 2012, citing regular state violence, often directed against the MDC and its supporters.
Tsvangirai will run against Mugabe in the elections due to take place in 2013. He has pledged to fight to alleviate the suffering of Zimbabweans by ending human rights abuses and state and political violence.