http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/africa/article5864667.eceTsvangirai’s wife killed by lorry on British aid run
Sophie Shaw in Harare and Jon Swain THE mysterious road accident that killed the wife of Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe’s prime minister, leaving him injured and emotionally devastated, was caused by an aid lorry on a mission funded by Britain’s international development department.
The heavy Nissan truck, registered to the American embassy in Harare, was carrying life-saving drugs for HIV-Aids sufferers, officials revealed yesterday.
Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party has demanded an independent investigation into the crash. It said the tragedy could have been avoided if proper security had been in place. Tendai Biti, the secretary-general of the party, said: “If there had been a police escort, what happened would not have happened.”
There was inevitable speculation of foul play, given Tsvangirai’s intense rivalry with President Robert Mugabe, with whom he formed a fragile unity government a month ago, and his claims to have been the target of four assassination attempts.
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Tsvangirai’s wife, Susan, 50, died on Friday when the lorry veered across from the opposite lane and slammed into their Toyota Land Cruiser at an accident blackspot 50 miles from Harare. She was thrown from the car, which rolled three times. The lorry driver is in police custody.
Mrs Tsvangirai was immensely popular with MDC supporters. The couple had been married for 31 years and had six children. Nelson Chamisa, a party spokesman, described her as “a mother not only to the Tsvangirai family, but to the party and the nation”.
The American ambassador, Jim McGee, said the driver might have been trying to avoid a pothole but police denied there were any large holes in the road. McGee’s statement was apparently contradicted by the driver, who reportedly told police he had fallen asleep at the wheel.
Activists seized on the inconsistency. One said the driver could well have been ordered or bribed to crash into Tsvangirai’s car. “This is how they killed their opponents in the 1980s.” Mugabe’s supporters are alleged to have faked car accidents in the past.
Zimbabwe’s national security chiefs are hostile to Tsvangirai’s role in the unity government. The police chief, Augustine Chihuri, and Constantine Chiwenga, the head of the army, have both threatened Tsvangirai in the past.
Tsvangirai suffered head and neck injuries but left hospital yesterday. Last night he was flown to neighbouring Botswana on President Seretse Ian Khama’s aircraft. Tuesday is his 57th birthday.
As he mourns his wife he faces enormous challenges in trying to bring a crippled Zim-babwe to its feet. He is also under pressure from supporters who believe he sold out cheaply by joining a government while Mugabe remains president.
Diplomats said any reduction in Tsvangirai’s capacity for work would be critical and that he needs to resume the role of prime minister quickly. The alternative would be to allow Mugabe to reassert complete authority.