By Angus Shaw
Sunday, March 8, 2009
HARARE, Zimbabwe, March 7 -- Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai left the hospital bandaged a day after he was injured and his wife was killed in a car crash that his supporters blamed partly on insufficient security provided by President Robert Mugabe.
Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change called for an investigation into the collision with a truck carrying U.S. aid supplies but cautioned against concluding that it was the latest assassination attempt against the longtime opposition leader.
Friday's crash, nonetheless, "could have been avoided" if Tsvangirai had the kind of motorcade that usually travels with Mugabe, said Tendai Biti, the country's new finance minister and Tsvangirai's No. 2 in the party. An MDC official who was traveling with Tsvangirai said the premier's Toyota Land Cruiser was accompanied by three vehicles with MDC security and one with Mugabe's agents, but not the kind of motorcade with dozens of cars and motorcycles that usually transports the president.
The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Tsvangirai was headed to a weekend rally in his home region when the accident occurred. State television said the truck swerved on an uneven and notoriously dangerous single-lane stretch of road on the outskirts of the capital, Harare. Tsvangirai's spokesman said the car carrying the prime minister, his wife, the driver and a bodyguard sideswiped the truck and rolled at least three times.
Susan Tsvangirai, 50, was pronounced dead soon after arrival at a clinic about 25 miles from Harare, said Ian Makone, a secretary in the prime minister's office and a member of his party. The state-run Herald newspaper reported that the driver and bodyguard were injured.
Mugabe sent the prime minister's family a message that called Susan Tsvangirai's death a "tragedy that has fallen on our nation at a time of great hope for our country," state radio reported. The president also said the nation was praying that the prime minister's recovery "be swift and complete."
A U.S. Embassy official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the official spokesman was unavailable, said Saturday that the truck involved was transporting AIDS medicine donated by the U.S. government. It was driven by a Zimbabwean hired by the United States.
Tsvangirai, who turns 57 next week, formed his Movement for Democratic Change a decade ago. As it emerged as a serious political challenger, Tsvangirai repeatedly faced the wrath of Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front. Tsvangirai has been beaten and was once nearly thrown from a 10th-floor window by suspected government thugs.
He was sworn in Feb. 11 as prime minister in a power-sharing deal meant to end almost a year of deadly stalemate with Mugabe. The unity government was formed under pressure from neighboring governments, which wanted Zimbabwean leaders to turn their attention to a growing humanitarian and economic crisis after years of rivalry between Tsvangirai and Mugabe, who has been in power since independence in 1980.