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MDC wants independent probe of crash

HARARE, March 7 – Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s party wants an independent probe of the car crash that killed his wife and injured him, a lawmaker said Saturday, after a report faulted a US contractor.

Tsvangirai, a longtime rival of President Robert Mugabe who recently became prime minister in a unity government aimed at ending months of political turmoil, remained in hospital following the crash on Friday.

"We will not get involved in any speculations until a full investigation has been conducted. Right now can’t draw any speculations," said Eddie Cross, an MP from Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party.

"The party will insist on an independent investigation."

Tsvangirai and his wife Susan were travelling from Harare to Buhera, their rural hometown where the new prime minister was due to speak at a rally on Saturday. His wife died at the scene of the crash.

"The nation is in pain, the nation is in shock. We have lost a mother," said MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa.

"The real cause of the accident is something we are waiting for. We don’t want to speculate. Police are doing their investigations and will have a report."

Mugabe and his wife Grace visited Tsvangirai in hospital on Friday evening.

Police on Friday said Tsvangirai’s car collided with a truck which crossed into the oncoming lane and side-swiped the prime minister’s vehicle, causing it to roll several times.

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ABC News in the United States cited unnamed US officials as saying the truck belonged to a contractor working for the US and British governments.

The truck, which had a USAID insignia on it, was purchased by US government funds and its driver was hired by a British development agency, the report said. USAID stands for the US Agency for International Development.

Tsvangirai was on Friday said to be in a stable condition in hospital but Chamisa declined to comment further.

"We will leave it to the families and doctors to comment on that," he said.

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.

"The accident has presented a very challenging hurdle for the Zimbabwe fragile accord," said Daniel Makina, an analyst based at the University of South Africa.

"People are not going to stop speculating and will probably start pointing fingers. Unfounded and damaging speculation could be disastrous."

Mugabe’s visit to Tsvangirai’s bedside was "very significant. It won’t instantly heal the rivalry but it’s a step towards the right direction," said Makina.

Tsvangirai claims to have been the target of four assassination attempts including one in 1997 when he said assailants tried to throw him out of his office window. He has also survived a severe beating by security forces.

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The Zimbabwe power-sharing government between Mugabe and Tsvangirai was meant to end nearly a year of political turmoil following disputed elections last March.

Since he took office, Tsvangirai has been appealing to the international community to help fund the country’s economic recovery.

Zimbabwe, once seen as a regional breadbasket and post-colonial success story, now faces the world’s highest inflation rate, major food shortages and a deadly cholera epidemic.


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