HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was flown to neighbouring Bots-wana on Saturday to recover from a car crash that injured him and killed his wife, a source from his MDC party said.
A Reuters witness had earlier seen Tsvangirai, his face swollen, walking out of a Harare hospital in the company of security guards and senior officials of his Movement for Democratic Change.
“I can confirm that he has left for Botswana after the doctor recommended that Mr Tsvangirai needed to recuperate, and he could not do that at home given his circumstance,” the MDC source said. Another MDC official said Botswanan President Ian Seretse Khama had sent his private jet to collect Tsvangirai. Khama is one of the few African leaders to openly criticise Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, with whom Tsvangirai entered a power-sharing government last month after years of opposition.
Tsvangirai’s MDC party said the car crash, which took place on Friday on a potholed highway south of the capital Harare, could have been avoided if proper security had been in place.
MDC Secretary-General and Finance Minister Tendai Biti said police were examining whether foul play was involved. The party will conduct its own investigation, he said.
“If there had been a police escort, what happened would not have happened; the authorities could have avoided this omission,” he said.
Tsvangirai’s wife, Susan, was killed when a truck veered into the opposite lane and slammed into their vehicle. She was thrown out of the car, which overturned and rolled three times, and was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.
Tsvangirai suffered some head and neck wounds, but his condition was stable, Biti said.
“Mr Tsvangirai is stable, but he’s in physical pain. The physical pain is dwarfed by the loss of his wife,” he said.
Tsvangirai is expected back in the country tomorrow. The driver of the truck, which belongs to the United States Development Agency, is in police custody.
Mugabe, who visited his old rival in hospital, said yesterday the accident and the death of Tsvangirai’s wife were a blow to a nation celebrating a new power-sharing government.
“We were celebrating this major development when the tragedy struck. It is very sad indeed,” Mugabe said.
Tsvangirai and Mugabe formed a unity government in February after months of talks to try to end a political and economic crisis that has brought Zimbabwe to ruin, with food shortages, a cholera epidemic and the world’s worst hyperinflation.
Several world leaders offered condolences to Tsvangirai, among them South African President Kgalema Motlanthe.
Tsvangirai, who turns 57 on Tuesday, had six children with Susan, 50. She was very popular among MDC supporters who would chant “mother, mother” when she appeared at rallies.
“She was a people’s hero. She was a mother to us and to our struggle,” MDC’s Biti said in a statement.
She avoided the political spotlight but stood by Tsvangirai throughout his struggle as Mugabe’s most determined opponent.