Tsvangirai rules out foul play in wife's fatal accident

Party officials remain suspicious as leader says it was not attempt on his life

Zimbabwe's Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, has ruled out foul play over the road accident in which his wife, Susan, died, although many in his party remain sceptical.

Addressing mourners at his home upon his return from Botswana, where he had gone to seek treatment at the weekend, Mr Tsvangirai said the car crash which he survived last week was a pure accident and he had no reason to think it was yet another attempt on his life.

But a senior MDC official, who did not want to be named publicly contradicting his boss, said many party officials would have preferred the party's own investigation into the accident to be completed first before Mr Tsvangirai made any pronouncements.

"His statement has probably made any investigation superfluous," said the official, adding that many in the party and outside harboured suspicions about the accident.

Mr Tsvangirai urged mourners to celebrate Susan's life. "When something happens, there is always speculation but I want to say in this case ... it was one in a thousand," he said.

"It was an accident and unfortunately it took her life. All of us will die, we must celebrate life. We must celebrate because we had gone through trials and tribulations together."

Mr Tsvangirai addressed the mourners shortly after arriving from Gaborone where he was flown on Saturday to get further medical treatment. "I am sure she would have liked life to go on. It will be difficult without her, but I want to thank God for the 31 years with my wife," he said.

Susan Tsvangirai died last Friday in the accident on the badly maintained Harare-Masvingo highway. The Prime Minister escaped with injuries that are not life threatening. The Toyota Land-cruiser in which they had been travelling was struck by a truck that veered on to their lane.

The Landcruiser rolled three times before landing on its roof. Mrs Tsvangirai sustained heavy injuries after she was thrown out of the car. She was pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital. After being treated at a private Harare clinic, Mr Tsvangirai was flown to neighbouring Botswana on Saturday for further checks and to recuperate.

His MDC party will hold a farewell ceremony in Harare today to honour Mrs Tsvangirai before her burial expected tomorrow.

The MDC did not say officially that it suspected any foul play in the fatal car crash but on Saturday the secretary general, Tendai Biti, accused the state of dereliction of duty by not providing Mr Tsvangirai with a police escort. He said the MDC would open an inquiry into the cause of the accident to run parallel with another investigation by the police.

The tragedy comes at a difficult time for Mr Tsvangirai, who faces the unenviable task of trying to resuscitate Zimbabwe's collapsed economy and co-operating with President Robert Mugabe who continues to undermine him in the new unity government.

The driver of the British-US aid truck that slammed into Mr Tsvangirai's vehicle was expected to face culpable homicide charges.

Mr Tsvangirai's former spokesman, George Sibotshiwe, said the accident may have been avoided if the state had released Mr Tsvangirai's own armoured vehicle confiscated last June.