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Zimbabwe PM says wife's death an accident

Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai sought to dispel speculation on Monday over the cause of the car crash that killed his wife, saying her death was a tragic accident.

world Updated: Mar 09, 2009 19:10 IST

Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai sought to dispel speculation on Monday over the cause of the car crash that killed his wife, saying her death was a tragic accident.

Susan Tsvangirai died and he was injured when a foreign aid truck slammed into their 4x4 on Friday, sending it flipping off a highway outside Harare.

His face still swollen from his injuries, Tsvangirai told about 100 mourners gathered at his Harare home that he did not believe any foul play was behind the collision.

"When something happens, there is always speculation but I want to say in this case, if there was any foul play, it was one in a thousand," said Tsvangirai, wearing dark sunglasses to cover his eyes.

"It was an accident and unfortunately it took her life," he told the crowd including relatives, party members, and worshippers from his church.

"I want to thank God giving me 31 years with my wife," he said. "Life will go on, and I am certain she would have liked life to go on."

"I know it would be difficult without her," he added. "We must celebrate life. We went through trials and tribulations together. I know it is painful."

Speculation over the cause of the accident erupted as soon as the crash was reported, due to a long history of political figures dying in suspicious road accidents in Zimbabwe.

Tsvangirai flew to neighbouring Botswana on Saturday for further medical checks, but returned to Harare on Monday to prepare for the funeral.

"We understand from the information we are getting from Botswana that the progress in terms of his recovery is quite remarkable and satisfactory," Nelson Chamisa, spokesman for Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), told South African radio earlier.

"We are just hoping and praying to God that his life is completely out of danger within the shortest possible time," he said.

Tsvangirai turns 57 on Tuesday, but will spend the day at a public service in a Harare stadium where supporters will pay their respects to Susan.

Her body will lie in state at their Harare home, while the burial will take place Wednesday morning in their hometown Buhera, the MDC said.

Tsvangirai's spokesman James Maridadi said the premier would spend the day with the couple's six children and other relatives to prepare for the funeral.

The crash on a potholed highway outside of the capital cast a pall over Zimbabwe's new unity government, which last month brought Tsvangirai into an awkward coalition with Mugabe, who has ruled since independence in 1980.

The unity government aimed to end nearly a year of political turmoil following disputed elections last March and to haul the nation from its stunning economic collapse fueled by world-record hyperinflation.

Doubts about the deal's durability arose even before the new cabinet was sworn in on February 13, when top Tsvangirai aide Roy Bennett was arrested. He remains in jail amid a legal battle over his bail on weapons charges.

The MDC is conducting its own investigation into the crash, but has not alleged any foul play and doubts about the incident appeared to ease after Washington and London said the truck was owned by a joint US-British aid project that delivers HIV/AIDS drugs.

London has denied that the driver had fallen asleep at the wheel or been drinking and called the crash a "genuine accident."

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.

Susan Tsvangirai, 50, generally avoided the political spotlight that her husband has seized for the last decade.

She founded a charity to teach women about AIDS, and the group's role has expanded to provide broader health and social services in a nation where health care has collapsed.