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Crash That Killed Zimbabwe PM's Wife Appears To Have Been Accident

  • Correspondents

The Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said Saturday that it is launching its own investigation into the death Friday of Mr. Tsvangirai's wife, Susan, in what it said appears to have been an accidental highway crash, while calling for improved security arrangements for the head of government.

Mr. Tsvangirai left the Avenues Clinic in Harare on Saturday after being treated for what were initially said to be minor injuries, and was flown to Botswana for what party officials said was recuperation from a state of exhaustion and to receive further medical attention.

Susan Tsvangirai was declared dead on arrival at Beatrice Hospital following the collision which occurred around 4 p.m. Friday when a tractor-trailer combination veered from the oncoming lane and struck the Toyota Land Cruiser carrying Mr. Tsvangirai and his wife.

Mr. Tsvangirai's driver tried to swerve out of the way but the trailer of the semi or articulated truck slammed into the Tsvangirai's vehicle, sending it rolling over several times.

Though CNN reported Saturday that an MDC official quoted Mr. Tsvangirai as saying the oncoming truck "deliberately" turned into his vehicle, initial suspicions that the collision might have been other than accidental were allayed when it was learned that the truck was carrying health materials purchased by the U.S. government for distribution in Zimbabwe.

Senior MDC officials told reporters they were not calling the crash anything but an accident – but said the party was opening its own independent investigation.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti, secretary general of Mr. Tsvangirai's MDC formation, said the accident might have been avoided if Mr. Tsvangirai had been assigned a police escort.

Correspondent Irwin Chifera of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported on the response by Mr. Tsvangirai's party in the aftermath of the fatal collision.

Party Spokesman Nelson Chamisa told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the party held an extraordinary national executive meeting to discuss burial arrangements and had already launched an independent investigation.

Police have arrested the driver of the truck and opened an official investigation, Zimbabwe Republic Police Spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena told reporter Zulu.

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, chairman of the Southern African Development Community, expressed condolences on behalf of South Africa and the region in a statement issued by his spokesman, Ronnie Mamoepa, VOA Correspondent Scott Bobb reported.

Zimbabwe's ambassador to the United States, Machivenyika Mapuranga, urged the country to allow the full details of the crash to emerge before drawing conclusions.

VOA reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyele spoke with one friend of Susan Tsvangirai who, speaking on condition she not be identified, praised her calm support of Mr. Tsvangirai and others in the opposition movement through many difficult times.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...