BY SILAS NKALA
ONE of the opposition MDC party’s founding members Esaph Mdlongwa has died.
Mdlongwa, who was in his 70s, was the opposition party’s first national organising secretary in 1999 and also served as Pumula-Luveve MP, died at Bulawayo’s Mater Dei Hospital on Wednesday.
Sources said Mdlongwa, the father of the popular South Africa-based musician Oskido had a long battle with diabetes, but family members said he succumbed to COVID-19 complications.
Former MDC Bulawayo senator Rita Ndlovu said she worked with Mdlongwa at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions before the formation of the MDC.
Burial arrangements are yet to be announced as his son Oscar is still expected to arrive from South Africa.
Meanwhile, several MDC members described Mdlongwa’s death as a huge loss to the party and country at large.
MDC Alliance Bulawayo spokesperson Swithern Chirowodza said it was sad that Mdlongwa passed on before the country has achieved real democracy.
Bulawayo mayor Solomon Madlala Mguni described him as the father of democratic movement.
Priscillah Misihairabwi-Mushonga said Mdlongwa was a “mobiliser par excellence, and a thoroughly good man with no evil bone in his body”.
Former MDC Alliance senator Gideon Shoko said Mdlongwa was involved in trade unionism the better part of his working life and only left trade unionism in 2001 after being elected MP.
When the MDC was formed in 1999, it drew most of its top leadership from the trade union and student movements.
Only four of the party’s first top 10 — Morgan Tsvangirai (president), Gibson Sibanda (vice-president), Welshman Ncube (secretary-general), Gift Chimanikire (deputy secretary-general), Mdlongwa (organising secretary), Isaac Matongo (chairman), Fletcher Dulini Ncube (treasurer-general), Lucia Matibenga (women’s assembly), Learnmore Jongwe (spokesperson) and Nelson Chamisa (youth assembly) — are still alive.
The party’s surviving founders are Ncube, Chamisa, Matibenga and Chimanikire.
The MDC split in 2005 during a dispute over whether the party should field candidates in a newly-created Senate, with Sibanda leading a breakaway along with Ncube, Mdlongwa and others.