Harare, Zimbabwe Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s wife was killed and he suffered injuries in a two-vehicle crash near the capital Friday, officials said. President Robert Mugabe paid a condolence visit to the hospital, but a long rivalry with his new premier fed suspicions about the circumstances.
Tsvangirai was traveling to a weekend rally in his home region, south of Harare, when their car sideswiped a truck and rolled at least three times, said his spokesman, James Maridadi. No other details were immediately available and Tsvangirai’s aides refused to elaborate.
Maridadi had initially said the injuries to the Tsvangirais and an aide were not life-threatening. Later, two officials from the Movement for Democratic Change party told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that 50-year-old Susan Tsvangirai was dead and an official statement would come later from the family.
Finance Minister Tendai Biti, Tsvangirai’s No. 2 in the party, told reporters after visiting the Harare hospital where the crash victims were taken that the prime minister was stable. Biti refused to answer questions about Susan Tsvangirai.
The British Foreign Office said the government was “deeply saddened to hear news of Susan Tsvangirai’s death and we offer our condolences.”
Rumors in Harare, some spread by cell phone text messages, were quick to raise questions about whether the crash was another of the assassination attempts directed at Tsvangirai. The new power-sharing government with Mugabe has been rocky from the start.
In the recent past as a leading government opponent, Tsvangirai has been severely beaten and once nearly thrown from a 10th floor window by suspected government thugs.
In Washington, Gordon Duguid, a State Department spokesman, said the United States had no information about the circumstances.
“We understand Prime Minister Tsvangirai was not hurt seriously but that Mrs. Tsvangirai was fatally injured. The United States extends its deepest condolences to Prime Minister Tsvangirai and his family,” he said.
The Tsvangirais, who married in 1978 and had six children, often went together to political events, but she did not have a prominent public role.