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11 Mar 2009 18:13
Ministers from several African governments and thousands of Zimbabweans joined Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai at the burial of his wife, Susan, in her home district of Buhera on Wednesday, five days after her death in a car crash.
At least 5 000 people looked on as Tsvangirai’s wife of 31 years was laid to rest next to the couple’s modest rural home in the little village of Humanikwa, south-west of Harare.
Some mourners had walked 60km to be there. Many others, including Tsvangirai, made their way by car from Harare, along the road on which she was killed last Friday while travelling with the prime minister to a rally in Buhera.
On passing the site of the crash, which has been dogged by suspicion of foul play by opponents of the country’s new power-sharing government, some people pulled in to survey the spot.
South Africa, Kenya and Botswana were among the African countries that sent government ministers to the funeral.
Tsvangirai, who was accompanied by his and Susan’s six children, was composed and grave throughout.
President Robert Mugabe was not present on Wednesday.
His Zanu-PF party was represented by a regional minister and some parliamentarians.
Susan’s death, less than a month after Tsvangirai became prime minister, sparked a huge outpouring of emotion in Zimbabwe, where many are still traumatised following a campaign of state-sponsored killings of opposition supporters last year.
She was killed when an aid truck struck the couple’s 4x4, causing it to roll three times. Tsvangirai himself escaped with minor injuries.
Susan Tsvangirai’s death was immediately treated as suspicious by many Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) members, given Zimbabwe’s long history of mysterious car crashes involving politicians.
The suspicion is directed at hardline members of Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party, who are suspected of trying to scupper the country’s power-sharing government.
Tsvangirai and Mugabe have both appealed to Zimbabweans to accept her death was a genuine accident.
Mugabe’s display of sorrow and empathy over Susan’s death has been welcomed by the MDC as a departure from his usually defiant attitude towards the party.
Referring to Mugabe’s pledge of support for Tsvangirai on Tuesday, MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti, usually a fierce Mugabe critic, told mourners on Wednesday: ‘Yesterday we saw a part that we are not used to — he’s a human being like all of us.”
The 84-year-old leader’s demeanour at the church service had been that of ‘a father”, not a politician, he said.
Tsvangirai, who was sworn in exactly four weeks ago as prime minister, is expected to take about two weeks off work to grieve.
Biti said South Africa’s ruling African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma had offered to host him and his family for a rest.
Analysts say his absence from government could stall progress on a recovery package.
Tsvangirai has been the face of Zimbabwe’s appeal for $2-billion in foreign aid towards rebuilding the battered economy.
A team of experts from the International Monetary Fund is in Zimbabwe to assess the country’s requirements.
The driver of the truck was arrested at the weekend on charges of culpable homicide and since been granted bail.—Sapa-dpa
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