A PRESS statement released by the MDC last Friday was straight to the point â€” Morgan Tsvangirai “arrives back home tomorrow to spearhead the presidential run-off campaign”.
Tsvangirai â€” who left Zimbabwe on April 8 and briefly stayed in Botswana and later South Africa â€” will contest the run-off on June 27 against President Robert Mugabe whom he defeated in the first round on March 29, but failed to win the necessary votes to go to State House.
Police mounted two roadblocks along the road to the Harare International Airport where Tsvangirai was expected to deplane from a South African Airways aircraft at 12.15pm.
Motorists driving along the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Road were stopped by armed police details who inquired as to their destination and in some cases vehicles were searched.
At the airport, a battery of journalists and a number of both African and Western diplomats were by midday already mingling and chatting awaiting the arrival of the first opposition leader in Zimbabwe to defeat the 84-year-old Mugabe in an election.
Surprisingly, no senior MDC official was at the airport to welcome the party president who had embarked on a diplomatic offensive in Sadc to drum up support for his party.
Those at the airport were not sure whether the former secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions would return home after he cancelled his return at the eleventh hour the previous week.
Tsvangirai told the international media then that his security advisors had told him not to return home because the military wanted to assassinate him.
But the fears of the diplomats, journalists and some MDC officials were allayed when Tsvangirai emerged from the arrivals terminal, prompting the scribes into action as they jostled to get interviews and shoot pictures of the opposition leader.
Four security aides shielded Tsvangirai from journalists and onlookers before whisking him away to the Avenues Clinic in the city centre to meet some of the victims of alleged state-sponsored post-election violence.
At the clinic, Tsvangirai was joined by his deputy Thokozani Khupe.
The victims, despite their various degrees of injuries and pain, assured Tsvangirai of their support and vowed that Mugabe would lose the run-off.
Runyararo Mugauyi from Chaona, Mashonaland Central, temporarily forgot his discomfort when he saw Tsvangirai.
“Thank you president for coming back,” Mugauyi said. “This time we are going to finish off the old man (Mugabe).”
Mugauyi had a gaping wound on his bottoms.
A doctor who was taking Tsvangirai and his entourage around said Mugauyi would have to undergo a grafting operation.
It was visible on Tsvangirai and Khupeâ€™s faces that they were shocked by Mugauiyiâ€™s injuries.
Brothers August and Beson Jemidzi from Chiweshe, Mashonaland Central, also vowed to continue campaigning for the MDC.
“For two weeks I could not walk and the nurses here had to help me do everything, including going to the bathroom,” Beson told Tsvangirai.
August said once released from the clinic he would campaign vigorously for the MDC presidential hopeful.
After listening to the horrific tales of the victims, Tsvangirai said: “I have come back to finish what we started on March 29.”
He said Mugabe would never rule Zimbabwe again.
At a press conference later in the day, Tsvangirai called on Mugabe to set the people of Zimbabwe free.
“Mugabe once led our people to freedom, he can even now set his people free from poverty, hunger and fear by stepping down,” Tsvangirai said.
He said he returned home with a sad heart.
“I have met and listened to the stories of the innocent people targeted by a regime seemingly desperate to cling to power,” the former firebrand trade unionist added.
Tsvangirai reminded the journalists of the Gukurahundi atrocities and how they have contributed to Mugabeâ€™s unpopularity in the Matebeleland region.
“If Mugabe thinks he has beaten people into submission, he will have a rude shock on the 27th of June,” he said.
Tsvangirai said he left Zimbabwe to present regional leaders with information that Mugabeâ€™s military had planned attacks on the opposition.
He said he had expected to be away only for a few weeks, but instead he later embarked on an international tour designed to rally support for democracy in Zimbabwe.
The MDC last week said Tsvangiraiâ€™s diplomatic efforts had seen him meeting several Sadc and African Union heads of state and his return would see him join the “victory celebrations” that started a fortnight ago with a rally at the White City stadium.
The MDC alleges that at least 50 of its supporters have been murdered while hundreds have sought medical attention after state security agents, Zanu PF militia and war veterans assaulted them.
As journalists walked out of the press conference, they discovered that businesses was as usual in the streets of Harare and it appeared that very few people were aware of Tsvangiraiâ€™s return home to fight Mugabe in the do-or-die presidential election run-off.
By Lucia Makamure