Susan Tsvangirai PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 07 March 2009 11:46 Tsvangirai

Born: 1959

Died: 6 March 2009

Age: 50

Cause of death:  Injuries sustained in motor accident

Notable because: Mother of 6, married to the man facing impossible odds, near to the eve of her arrival as the first lady of Zimbabwe, dies tragically in circumstances that raise suspicions of more foul play by Africa's leading muntuist. Robert Mugabe. 

Susan Tsvangirai was the wife of the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe Morgan Tsvangirai and a prominent member of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change political party.

Susan and Morgan Tsvangirai married in 1978. The couple had six children during their marriage.  Though Tsvangirai often avoided the public spotlight, she became one of the most popular figures within the MDC-T. Supporters often chanted "mother, mother" at rallies and events. She remained by her husband as he faced treason charges and police beatings in his opposition to President Robert Mugabe.

In March 2009, following her husband's success in forging a unity government, Susan Tsvangirai told a BBC affiliate that the past decade had been an "endurance test" for her husband and his MDC colleagues: "People went through hell, but they stuck to their ideals to seek change through democratic means... This was a struggle that we endured with MDC cadres, activists, supporters and peace-loving Zimbabweans. To them I say thank you so much for the support they gave the MDC to reach this momentous period."

Susan Tsvangirai was killed in a collision on the Harare-Masvingo Road on Friday, 6 March 2009, approximately 45 miles south of the capital, Harare. Her husband, Morgan Tsvangirai, who had been Prime Minister less than one month at the time of the accident, was injured in the crash. The couple had been en route to their home in Buhera, Manicaland, where they planned to stay Friday night before attending a Movement for Democratic Change – Tsvangirai party meeting at the Murambinda Business Center on Saturday. They were traveling in a Land Cruiser within a three car convoy when a truck traveling in the opposite direction crossed into their lane and struck their vehicle. The truck driver told police that he had fallen asleep at the wheel.

Susan Tsvangirai was pronounced dead at a hospital in Beatrice, Zimbabwe. She was 50 years old. Morgan Tsvangirai suffered minor bruises and scratches in the accident.

Dennis Murira, the executive director of the Movement for Democratic Change – Tsvangirai political party, told the media "the devastating news is that he (Morgan Tsvangirai) has lost his beloved wife, a woman who was of immense significance to the party, a woman who on several occasions managed to comfort a number of us who were victims of this struggle."

The crash raised suspicions of foul play. Even though traffic accidents are common in Zimbabwe, due to the fact that vehicles in the country are often in bad shape, many roads are in poor condition, and drivers often are inexperienced; previous political rivals of President Robert Mugabe have also been involved in fatal car accidents: in 1999 Employment Minister Border Gezi, in 2001 Defense Minister Moven Mahachi, and in 2008 government minister and former regional governor Elliot Manyika, all died in car crashes.

Tom McDonald, the U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe from 1997 to 2001, said, "I'm skeptical about any motor vehicle accident in Zimbabwe involving an opposition figure... President Mugabe has a history of strange car accidents when someone lo and behold dies - it's sort of his M.O. of how they get rid of people they don't like... So, when I hear that Tsvangirai was in an accident, it gives me pause." The former U.S. diplomat is calling for an outside investigation of the crash.

A statement issued by the MDC said: "We suspect that this is not a genuine accident and we appeal to Zimbabweans in South Africa to remain calm as facts continue to surface. We strongly believe that these are the evil acts of a few individuals bent on derailing the progress of the Inclusive government. We are, however, alive to the fact that a lot of Robert Mugabe's opponents died in suspicion road accidents involving army trucks."

Zimbabwe's history of political killings includes previous attempts on Mr Tsvangirai's life, by groups loyal to Mr Mugabe and the Zanu-PF movement. In 1997 an unidentified gang tried to throw Mr. Tsvangirai from a 10th floor office window, and in 2007 he was admitted to hospital after a brutal assault by police at a prayer rally. Mrs Tsvangirai provided vital support for her husband, bringing him food in prison after his police beatings and nursing him back to health afterwards.

Following Mr Mugabe's brutal suppression of the opposition leading into the close 2009 election, he was pressured into a power-sharing deal, resulting in the formation of a unity government. Rumours that the fatal incident was a botched assassination attempt are causing unrest in MDC supporters, which threatens to possibly collapse the fragile Mugabe-Tsvangirai coalition government. Many suspect that the burden of the loss of Susan Tsvangirai's support may undermine Morgan Tsvangirai's performance as Zimbabwean Prime Minister.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 July 2010 09:03

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