Facing defeat in a presidential run-off, Mugabe resorted to violence, forcing Tsvangirai to withdraw after scores of his supporters were killed by ZANU-PF thugs.
An increasingly worried South Africa squeezed the pair into a fractious unity coalition but the compromise belied Mugabe’s de facto grip on power through his continued control of the army, police and secret service.
As old age crept in and rumours of cancer intensified, his animosity towards Tsvangirai eased, with the two men enjoying weekly meetings over tea and scones, a quirky nod to Mugabe’s affection for British tradition if not authority.
On the eve of the 2013 election, Mugabe dismissed cries of autocracy and likened dealing with Tsvangirai to sparring in the ring.
“Although we boxed each other, it’s not as hostile as before,” he said. “It’s all over now. We can shake hands.”
At the same time, Mugabe’s agents were finalising plans to engineer an election victory through manipulation of the voters’ roll, the Tsvangirai camp said.
The subsequent landslide was typical of a man who could always out-fight and out-think opponents.
“To give the devil his due, he is a brilliant tactician,” former U.S. ambassador Christopher Dell wrote in a cable released by WikiLeaks.
But whatever the outcome of this week’s events, they could usher in a generational change for the southern African nation.- The Source