Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has died, a spokesman for his Movement for Democratic Change party said.

The party’s vice president Elias Mudzuri described Mr Tsvangirai on Twitter as our icon and fighter for democracy.

He said: I can confirm that he died this evening. The family communicated this to me.

Mr Tsvangirai died aged 65 in South Africa, where he had spent 18 months there undergoing treatment for cancer.

The veteran politician spent decades fighting Robert Mugabe’s regime and came very close to unseating him in 2008.

He was, however, out-manoeuvred and, ultimately, outlived by the 93-year-old dictator, who stepped down as the country’s president last November.

Mr Tsvangirai was the son of a bricklayer and began his working life working in a rural mine to support his first wife Susan and their six children.

He got his first taste of politics when he took on the role as mine foreman, moving on in 1988 to become full-time secretary general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.

In 1999, he helped found the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and quickly became Zimbabwe’s best-known opposition figure.

In June the following year, Mr Tsvangirai inspired poorer voters with his rhetoric, stunning the ruling ZANU-PF party by winning 57 of the 120 seats in parliament.

He was praised for his political courage but many worried that he was headstrong and had been ill-equipped to take on the long-time dictator Mr Mugabe.

He suffered many abuses at the hands of Zimbabwe’s security forces, the worst of which was a beating by police in 2007 which left him with severe head injuries.

In 2008, he got the most votes in the national election but was just short of the more than 50% needed to win outright, according to official results.

He boycotted the next round, saying his supporters were being targeted with violence.

This handed victory to Mr Mugabe.

Between 2009 and 2013, he served as prime minister to President Mugabe, in a government hastily cobbled together after a violent and disputed election.

The two often fought but managed a working relationship, even sharing afternoon tea every Monday.

Mr Mugabe said at the time: It’s not as hostile as it before. It’s all over now – we can shake hands.

His presence helped to stabilise the struggling economy but, after Mr Mugabe refused to overhaul Zimbabwe’s partisan security forces, Mr Tsvangirai was moved back to his opposition role.

Also, his colourful love life was regularly a topic of interest for the tabloids and courts.

In 2013, he was defeated again and his political party split in half.

Three years later, he revealed he was being treated for colon cancer.

(c) Sky News 2018: Zimbabwe opposition leader Tsvangirai dies