HARARE, March 7 – Zimbabwe’s new Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was hospitalised Friday after a car crash that killed his wife, just three weeks after taking office in a unity government, his party said.,
The couple was headed to their hometown in Buhera district where he was to hold a rally on Saturday, but their car was hit by a freight truck and Susan Tsvangirai died at the scene, party officials said.
"He is stable," Finance Minister Tendai Biti, Tsvangirai’s top political aide, told reporters after visiting the premier at a private hospital.
Douglas Gwatidzo, a physician who visited Tsvangirai, declined to give details on his injuries but said "he is okay."
Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena was quoted by state television as saying that the truck had crossed into the oncoming lane and side-swiped Tsvangirai’s vehicle.
"The 4×4 Toyota Landcruiser is understood to have overturned and rolled thrice," the report said.
Tsvangirai’s spokemsan James Maridadi told reporters at the hospital in Harare that the accident happened at 4:00 pm (1400 GMT), and that two other people were in the car.
"The driver of the truck appeared to be sleeping," an MDC minister told AFP.
Another source who had visited him at the hospital said Tsvangirai’s head appeared swollen, but doctors had not yet commented on his condition.
President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace went to the hospital to visit him, but did not speak to reporters.
Tsvangirai was sworn in three weeks ago as prime minister, joining his long-time rival Mugabe in a unity government.
Ministers from both Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and Mugabe’s ZANU-PF were seen entering the hospital to visit him.
But the crash raised new concerns about the success of the government that has been shaken by the arrest of Roy Bennett, a one-time white farmer who became a top aide to Tsvangirai, and disputes over the appointments of top officials.
"Tensions are still high and there is a lot of mistrust going on between the two political divides," Sydney Masamvu, a Zimbabwe analyst at the International Crisis Group, told AFP.
"So really there is a lot of grey areas and this tragedy coming against this background raises a lot of questions. That’s not to say that we are pointing any fingers," he added.
Dirk Kotze of the University of South Africa said with the cause of the accident still unclear, any perception of foul play could have serious consequences.
"If it was just an accident and there was no foul play…then it will not have direct political consequences for Zimbabwe," he told AFP in Johannesburg.
"But it will bring a major crisis if there is any suggestion that it was not just an accident."
Susan Tsvangirai was not active in her husband’s party, but before the 2002 presidential elections — which Tsvangirai controversially lost — she said she hoped to become a mother for the nation.
"I am excited, but slightly daunted," she told the Sunday Telegraph in 2002. "There is a lot of work to do. I am looking forward to being not only the mother of my own children but the mother of the nation as well."
"Despite all the intimidation and the security, there is no need to live in fear, because we are all going to die one day, violently or otherwise. There is nothing any of us can do about that," she said at the time.
She met her future husband in 1977 when Tsvangirai was working for Trojan Nickel Mine, and they discovered that they shared the same hometown of Buhera.
They eventually had six children, and she tended to prefer her privacy over the political spotlight.
"I will have to get used to it," she says of public life in a 2000 interview with Zimbabwe’s Daily News. "How will I avoid it? There will be no place to hide."