'Tsvangirai crash was designed to eliminate leader' – Senior MDC Officials

JOHANNESBURG – Senior lieutenants of Zimbabwe's prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Sunday privately disputed claims that a traffic incident that killed his wife last week was an accident, and blasted the UK government's Foreign office official for making remarks of a "genuine accident" before a full independent investigation is carried out.

Members of his party, the Movement of Democratic Change (MDC), said the threat to Mr Tsvangirai’s life was being overlooked as diplomats sought to keep an agreement to reconcile Zimbabwe’s political parties on track.

The party vowed to conduct its own investigation into the car crash in which Susan Tsvangirai, 50, was killed and her 56-year-old husband suffered head injuries.

One member of the MDC criticised comments by a British official that last week’s crash, which involved a vehicle that was distributing medical aid on behalf of British and America assistance programmes, as a “genuine accident”.

“How would the British government know this for sure?” he said. “We had our own people on the scene very shortly afterwards and there was no sign of any High Commission representative.

“We also know that the British government has a great interest in ensuring that the unity government in Zimbabwe is a success despite all the evidence that Mugabe has repeatedly flouted all the conditions.”

President Robert Mugabe visited Mr Tsvangirai, whose injuries were described as minor, in hospital in Harare after the incident. But in a signal of concern among Mr Tsvangirai’s allies over his well being, the prime minister was later flown to neighbouring Botswana for “medical and security” reasons.

Botswana’s president, Ian Khama, is one of the few African leaders to have openly criticised Mr Mugabe’s rule, blaming the president for the economic collapse that has forced more than one million Zimbabweans to emigrate.

Mr Mugabe’s show of sympathy did little to allay the fears of Mr Tsvangirai’s supporters that he had been targeted by Zimbabwe’s security forces, the members of which have a vested interest in ensuring a continuation of Mr Mugabe’s rule.

MDC leaders pointed out that there had been at least four attempts on Mr Tsvangirai’s life in his years of opposition. “This is not a genuine accident”, said Sibanengi Dube, the MDC spokesman in South Africa.

“This is an organised hit that was designed to eliminate our leader.

“We believe that the powerful and notorious clique in Mr Mugabe’s Zanu-PF is determined to scupper efforts by the inclusive government to get Zimbabwe back on track.”

Yesterday the road outside Mr Tsvangirai’s house in suburban Harare was filled with hundreds of mourners in MDC T-shirts, singing Shona funeral songs, dancing and beating drums. Mrs Tsvangirai, 50, will be buried at her rural home of Buhera on Wednesday.

Each day since Mr Tsvangirai was sworn in on February 11 has involved close combat with Mr Mugabe, his ministers and senior officials trying to obstruct the MDC’s plan to rebuild the economy, restore human rights and deal with Africa’s worst cholera epidemic and a national famine.

This week he was due to deal with an attempt by Mr Mugabe to grab back the Information Technology Ministry after it emerged that the Government’s electronic surveillance department – whose prime task was to spy on the MDC – had been handed to one of Mr Tsvangirai’s ministers.

Colleagues feared that a prolonged absence would seriously damage the MDC.

“A week is a long time, let alone a fortnight, in Zimbabwean politics,” the commentator Eldred Masunungure said. “The real threat is from the hardliners in Zanu (PF). They may even be celebrating the tragedy. They will probably be ordering full steam ahead on their agenda [of keeping the MDC’s hands off power], and will take full advantage of Tsvangirai’s absence.”

A grinning young man in a silver SUV yesterday demonstrated the intense hatred felt by many in Zanu (PF) for Mr Tsvangirai and the MDC. He drove the car at high speed through the crowd of mourners milling outside the Tsvangirai’s home.

Thokozani Khupe, one of two deputy prime ministers, is expected to stand in for Mr Tsvangirai.

The crash happened as Mr and Mrs Tsvangirai travelled to a weekend home south of Harare just two days after the new prime minister addressed parliament for the first time.

They were in an official vehicle with a private security escort when it was hit by a seven-ton lorry heading the other way.

Choona Mwana, the lorry driver, was reported to have told the independent Zimbabwe Standard newspaper that he had hit a hump in the road and was battling to control his vehicle when it hit Mr Tsvangirai’s car, causing it to overturn.

Mrs Tsvangirai was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.

Seven leading political figures seen to have been challenging Mr Mugabe’s rule had died in mysterious circumstances. Most were killed in vehicle accidents that were never satisfactorily explained. The Telegraph (UK)