March 7, 2009

Prime Minister Tsvangirai survives car crash – speculations mounting

Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe's prime minister, survived a car crash yesterday that killed his wife, Susan, near Harare. Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said the prime minister was injured but not critically in the collision with a truck. He was taken to a clinic in the capital. The driver of his official vehicle was seriously injured. There was no word on the condition of the truck driver.

The party said there was no immediate reason to believe the accident was suspicious, but it was awaiting full details. An MDC official said that from information at the scene it appeared the truck driver fell asleep at the wheel. It was later reported the driver admitted being asleep at the wheel.

But rumours in Harare, some spread by sms, were quick to raise questions about whether the crash was another of the assassination attempts directed at Tsvangirai and blamed on Robert Mugabe, the president. Their power-sharing government has been rocky from the start.

MDC officials said the couple had been heading to Tsvangirai's hometown of Buhera for a political rally. Mrs Tsvangirai died at the crash scene. State television cancelled its first evening newscast without explanation and reported nothing about the accident in the second.

The couple were married for 31 years and had six children. Mrs Tsvangirai was widely respected in Zimbabwe as the opposite of Mugabe's extravagant and free-spending wife, Grace, who showed little concern for the plight of the many hungry and poor in her country. Susan Tsvangirai largely avoided the limelight but spoke out on women's rights and Aids. She was deeply religious. Last night the Mugabes visited Tsvangirai in hospital to offer their condolences.

Zimbabwe's roads are notoriously dangerous, having deteriorated in recent years through lack of maintenance. Drivers are forced to weave around potholes. Many vehicles have no proper lights and brakes because of the difficulty and expense of obtaining spare parts.

Tsvangirai only became prime minister last month after hammering out a power-sharing deal with bitter rival Mugabe, who remains president. The agreement was meant to end almost a year of stalemate, as the country was racked by economic turmoil and a devastating cholera outbreak. Tsvangirai delivered his maiden speech to Parliament as prime minister two days ago. (Mail & Guardian)

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