By Richard Lapper in Johannesburg and agencies.
Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was flown to neighbouring Botswana on Saturday to recover from a car crash that injured him and killed his wife, a source from his MDC party said.
A Reuters witness had earlier seen Mr Tsvangirai, his face swollen, walking out of a Harare hospital in the company of security guards and senior officials of his Movement for Democratic Change.e has left for Botswana after the doctor recommended that Mr Tsvangirai needed to recuperate, and he could not do that at home given his circumstance,” the MDC source said.
Another MDC official said Botswanan President Ian Seretse Khama had sent his private jet to collect Tsvangirai. Mr Khama is one of the few African leaders to openly criticise Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, with whom Mr Tsvangirai entered a power-sharing government last month after years of opposition.
Mr Tsvangirai’s MDC party said the car crash, which took place on Friday on a potholed highway south of the capital Harare, could have been avoided if proper security had been in place.
The wife of Zimbabwe’s prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai was on Friday killed in a road accident that left her husband hurt.
Susan Tsvangirai was accompanying her husband, who took office last month, on their way to their rural home in Buhera when the crash occurred. According to MDC officials, Mr Tsvangirai’s car apparently collided with a lorry on a road about 30 miles south of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital.
“Mr Tsvangirai is in a state of shock but he is not at risk,” said a spokesman for the prime minister. “He is under observation and we are awaiting doctors’ reports.”
Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe was said to have visited Mr Tsvangirai in hospital. Reporters saw the president walk into the building, but he made no comment.
“Morgan will be devastated [by his wife’s death],” said Eddie Cross, a national executive member of the MDC, told news agencies in Harare. “They were very close.”
Mr Tsvangirai, who turns 57 on Tuesday, has been married to Susan for 31 years. They have six children. Although Mrs Tsvangirai was not actively involved in Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change, she has supported him and appeared at campaign rallies with her husband over the last ten years.
The accident comes at a very difficult time for Mr Tsvangirai, who agreed to form a coalition government with his bitter enemy, Mr Mugabe, at the end of January.
Although the new government was inaugurated three weeks ago it has been beset by infighting.
Roy Bennett, a leader from Mr Tsvangirai’s party, the Movement for Democratic Change, and the designated deputy minister of agriculture, was detained on the day the new administration took office. He remains in prison even though courts have granted him bail.
Separately, officials loyal to Mr Mugabe’s Zanu PF have intensified their offensive against white commercial farmers in recent weeks, with soldiers, policeman and members of the party’s radical youth wing occupying several dozen farms.
Mr Tsvangirai, meanwhile, has promised to step up efforts to secure international financial backing in order to reverse the international economic isolation suffered during the latter period of Mr Mugabe’s near three-decade rule and halt a ruinous decline that has seen economic output contract by more than two-thirds over the past ten years.
Zimbabwe’s currency has been rendered worthless by catastrophic hyperinflation and on his first day in government Mr Tvangirai promised that he would pay more than 160,000 public sector workers in vouchers convertible into currencies such as the US dollar or South African Rand that circulate freely in the country.
Mr Tsvangirai won a first round of elections held last March but withdrew from a second round after extensive violence against his supporters. Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai originally agreed to share power last September after talks orchestrated by South Africa, but disagreements about the exact composition of the coalition government held up final agreement for several months.
Mr Tsvangirai agreed to enter government in spite of Mr Mugabe’s refusal to cede control of the home affairs, the ministry that has responsibility for policing.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009