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Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) arrive ahead of the swearing in of Zimbabwe's new president Emmerson Mnangagwa in Harare, Zimbabwe, November 24, 2017. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko(reuters_tickers)
HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)leader Morgan Tsvangirai said on Monday it was time for the older generation to step back and allow "new hands" to lead, raising prospects of leadership change in the party.
Tsvangirai, a former trade union leader who has been at the helm of the MDC since its formation in 1999, disclosed in June 2016 that he had cancer. Last year, he spent weeks in a South African hospital receiving treatment. [nL5N1LX089]
Pictures of a frail Tsvangirai meeting President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who succeeded Robert Mugabe in November after he was eased from office by a de facto military coup, have increased calls that he consider giving way to a new opposition leader.
"I am looking at the imminent prospects of us as the older generation leaving the levers of leadership to allow the younger generation to take forward this huge task that we started together so many years ago with our full blessing and support," Tsvangirai said in a statement.
"We must recognize the imperative that new hands, with the full blessing of the people, must take this struggle and this country forward."
Tsvangirai, 65, has been the opposition torch bearer since 2000 and his bitter rivalry with 93-year-old Mugabe, who ruled for 37 years, was often punctuated by violence against opposition supporters.
Last year in August, Tsvangirai reunited with former allies to a forge a coalition to challenge the ruling ZANU-PF party in presidential and parliamentary elections due later this year. [nL5N1KQ3YT]
Tsvangirai has three deputies in the MDC, including the youthful 39-year-old Nelson Chamisa, who is often touted as a future successor to Tsvangirai.
(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; editing by Ralph Boulton)