JOHANNESBURG - Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai known for his lengthy, dogged quest to end the regime of longtime President Robert Mugabe, has died, just months after Mugabe caved to pressure to step down after decades in power.
His life’s mission took its toll: Tsvangirai, who was 65, died Wednesday in South Africa after a long battle with cancer.
"I can confirm that he died this evening. The family communicated this to me," Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party Vice President Elias Mudzuri told Reuters.
WATCH: Zimbabwe's Tsvangirai, Who Fought for Democratization, Dies at 65
Even in his final months, Tsvangirai did not slow down in his life’s mission to bring political change to Zimbabwe.
He got his wish shortly before his death. In late 2017, Mugabe resigned after 38 years as president. His right-hand man, Emmerson Mnangagwa, was sworn in to replace him.
Tsvangirai never got to lead his Movement for Democratic Change to victory, but his supporters say his efforts were what mattered.
“Morgan Tsvangirai is the first man to actually have the bravery to stand against Mugabe and bring about results," MDC member Austin Moyo said.
Tsvangirai challenged Mugabe time and time again, contesting Mugabe’s quest for president in 2002, 2008 and 2013 -- elections marked with repression, violence and irregularities.
He spent nearly as much time on the campaign trail as he did in jail for an assortment of politically motivated trials and arrests.
He also tried to make peace with the longtime leader, joining a government of national unity and serving as prime minister from 2009 to 2013. That move was met with mixed public reaction, and the coalition eventually fell apart.
He will be remembered most for his tenacity, political analyst Gideon Chitanga said.
“He did not flinch, he did not betray the struggle for democracy, he did not surrender — he even sacrificed his victory in 2008 to try and accommodate the military regime in Zimbabwe, fronted by Robert Mugabe, as a way of facilitating a smooth transition to democracy," Chitanga said.
"The challenges of that period we can discuss about, but I think he is probably one of the greatest statesmen Zimbabwe has ever produced," he added.
Tsvangirai had been fighting colon cancer since 2016. But in his own way, in the end, he won the bigger fight that kept him going for so long — seeing the end of the Mugabe regime.