9 March 2009
South Africa has sent its condolences to Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on the death of his wife, Susan, in a car accident on Friday.
South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, who is also chairman of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), issued a statement on Saturday expressing shock at the accident and conveying the condolences of the country and the region.
“As you mourn the death of your beloved wife Susan, please be assured of the unwavering and moral support of the government and people of South Africa as well as the SADC during this hour of need and bereavement,” Motlanthe said.
Former South African president Thabo Mbeki, who was a major role-player in the talks to establish a government of unity in Zimbabwe, has also sent his condolences to the Tsvangirai family.
Tsvangirai and his wife were travelling on Friday from Harare to Buhera, where he was due to attend a rally on Saturday. His car was hit by a truck which crossed into the oncoming lane and side-swiped his vehicle, causing it to roll several times, police said.
Britain has confirmed that the truck was owned by a joint Unites States-British aid project that delivers HIV/Aids drugs.
Susan Tsvangirai died at the scene of the accident. She was reportedly flung out of the car as it rolled over and landed on top of her. Rescuers found her 15 metres from the wrecked vehicle, fatally wounded with serious internal injuries and fractures to both legs.
She was rushed to Beatrice Hospital, where she was confirmed dead on arrival. Tsvangirai, who sustained minor injuries in the accident, left for neighbouring Botswana for medical treatment on Saturday after he was released from the Avenues Clinic in Harare.
The MDC has said it will carry out its own investigation into the collision. While the authorities have not suggested foul play, Finance Minister Tendai Biti has suggested that a police escort might have prevented the accident.
The accident has raised new concerns about Zimbabwe’s fragile unity government, whose inception has been plagued by disputes over the appointments of top officials.
The new government faces an array of problems, including food and fuel shortages, the world’s most serious hyperinflation, and a cholera outbreak in which nearly 88 000 people have been infected, with nearly 4 000 killed.
Tsvangirai, who turns 57 on Tuesday, had six children with his wife Susan, who was popular among MDC supporters, and would chant “mother, mother” when she appeared at rallies with her husband.
Susan Tsvangirai avoided the spotlight, but stood by her husband throughout his ordeals as Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s most determined opponent.
She is to be buried in her rural hometown of Buhera on Wednesday.
A senior official from Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the party headed up by Tsvangirai, said a procession would be held in Harare on Tuesday in her honour.