Thousands attend funeral for Zimbabwe prime minister’s wife

Morgan Tsvangirai attends his wife's public funeral at Glamis Stadium in Harare.
Thousands of people gathered Wednesday for the funeral of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s wife, who was killed last week in a car wreck.

Susan Tsvangirai was buried in her rural village of Buhera, about 200 kilometers (124 miles) south of the capital, Harare. The funeral followed two memorial services on Tuesday: one at a church, where President Robert Mugabe addressed mourners, and the other at a stadium. About 30,000 people attended the memorial service at Glamis Stadium, Tsvangirai’s party, Movement for Democratic Change, said. That remembrance was an extension of the church service, as the church could not accommodate all those who wanted to attend, Tsvangirai spokesman James Maridadi told CNN. MDC Secretary-General Tendai Biti said Wednesday that Tsvangirai and his family would be traveling to South Africa for a few days to rest. He did not specify when they were leaving. Biti, who is one of Mugabe’s fiercest critics, acknowledged the support the president has shown toward Tsvangirai, his longtime political rival, in the wake of Susan’s death. “I think yesterday, we saw a part that we are not used to,” he said. “He is also a human being; he is a human being, like all of us.” Mugabe had said earlier this week that Susan Tsvangirai’s funeral would be state-assisted.

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Referring to Mugabe’s remarks at the church service, Biti added, “He was not a politician speaking, but a father.” Mugabe spoke to hundreds of mourners at Mabelreign Methodist Church in Harare, saying, “we are doing our best that we create a conducive environment and tell our supporters that the issue of violence must end.” Tsvangirai and her husband were traveling from Harare to Buhera Friday when a truck collided with their vehicle. She was killed and the prime minister suffered minor injuries in the wreck, which occurred along a busy two-lane highway. Mark Weinberg, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Harare, told CNN the truck belonged to a U.S. Agency for International Development partner who delivers medical supplies as part of a U.S.-British program. Biti told the tens of thousands at Glamis Stadium that Susan Tsvangirai was “an activist and revolutionary in her own right.” He said “she believed in the same values as her husband in wishing to bring about democratic change in Zimbabwe through a new, people-driven constitution.” Members of the MDC initially said the prime minister believed Friday’s crash was an assassination attempt. Tsvangirai dismissed those assertions on Monday. “When something like that happens there is speculation, but I want to assure you, if it was foul play it is one in a thousand,” he said. “It was an accident that took her life.” Tsvangirai has long been a leading opposition figure in Zimbabwe. His agreement to join the coalition government with Mugabe last month seemed to resolve an impasse created by the disputed presidential election between Mugabe and Tsvangirai last year.

Tsvangirai received the most votes in the March 2008 election, but he fell short of the 50 percent required to avoid a runoff. He withdrew as a candidate in the runoff, citing political violence and intimidation targeting his supporters. Negotiations between the two sides culminated in the power-sharing agreement.