Tributes for the late Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai continue to pour in as the US lauds him for championing human rights. Picture: Reuters /Philimon Bulawayo/File Photo

Johannesburg – Tributes for the late Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai continue to pour in with both Amnesty International and the US lauding him for championing human rights, after he succumbed to illness on Wednesday.

“Morgan Tsvangirai was a courageous politician who also stood up for human rights for the people of Zimbabwe, often at personal cost," Amnesty said in a Thursday press release following the death of the opposition leader last night, aged 65.

“As a political leader Morgan Tsvangirai inspired hopes of millions of Zimbabweans at times when human rights were under threat,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty’s Regional Director for Southern Africa.

“His death will be felt as a serious blow by those who continue to struggle for human rights, rule of law and social justice in Zimbabwe.”

Read more: Morgan Tsvangirai has died - party official

Following a career as a trade unionist, Morgan Tsvangirai rose to the centre of Zimbabwean politics in the late 1990s when he founded the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). He served as Prime Minister between 2009 and 2013.

As a trade unionist he championed workers’ rights and led the struggle for social and economic rights of millions of Zimbabweans, said Amnesty.

As an opposition politician he repeatedly challenged human rights violations and injustices, including the arrests and intimidation of activists, journalists and political opposition figures.

Tsvangirai himself was beaten and arrested several times by the Zimbabwean security forces for his political activities and for championing the human rights of others, including during elections, stated Amnesty.

During the 2008 presidential poll he and his supporters were targeted for their political views, suffering violence at the hands of state agents.

Also read: Morgan Tsvangirai hailed as one of the 'greatest opposition leaders'

Washington added its condolences to Tsvangirai’s untimely passing saying that its hearts, thoughts and prayers went out to his family and to all the people of Zimbabwe. 

“We join Zimbabweans from across the country in mourning the passing of a national hero and political icon who fearlessly stood against injustice and tirelessly fought for peace and democratic principles,” said the US State Department in a Thursday press release.

“We salute his relentless struggle and great personal sacrifices for the equitable treatment of all Zimbabweans, and his insistence that every voice in Zimbabwe share the right to be heard.  We hope that his spirit of compromise for the good of the country and his determination will help carry Zimbabwe forward to a brighter future.”

British politician, Boris Johnson also expressed his sadness at Tsvangirai’s death, describing him as a brave leader that represented “courage” and “determination”. He “gave ordinary Zimbabweans faith to believe in the future”.

Bantu Holomisa, the leader of the United Democratic Movement in South Africa, expressed his condolences on social media and thanked the fallen Zimbabwe opposition leader for the contribution he made in promoting democracy throughout Africa.

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga said: "I have learnt of the passing of former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai with deep sorrow. Morgan dared to dream of democracy, freedom and justice for his country and his people despite the firm hands of dictatorship that held sway".

African News Agency/ANA