Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai told United States ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee that there was a one-in-one-thousand chance that the accident that killed his wife Susan less than a month after he assumed office was an intentional act.
Tsvangirai and his wife were passengers in the second car of a three-car convoy when the accident occurred on 6 March about 75 km along the Harare-Masvingo road. They were on their way to Tsvangirai’s home in Buhera.
Information Minister Nelson Chamisa urged the United States government to issue a statement stating what Tsvangirai had told the ambassador.
There was wide speculation that the accident was the work of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front.
Viewing cable 09HARARE194, TSVANGIRAI’S CAR ACCIDENT
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FM AMEMBASSY HARARE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4150
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000194
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E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: TSVANGIRAI’S CAR ACCIDENT
¶1. (U) THIS IS AN ACTION REQUEST, PLEASE SEE PARAGRAPH 10.
¶2. (SBU) The Ambassador spoke with Prime Minister Morgan
Tsvangirai on March 7, and USAID officials and Zimbabwean
lawyers spoke with witnesses on the same day. It is clear
that the incident in which Mr. Tsvangirai’s car was struck
and his wife lost her life was an unfortunate accident. In
the midst of growing confusion in Zimbabwe about what took
place and whether ZANU-PF was possibly involved, Tsvangirai
spoke to the press today and affirmed that this was an
accident. Tsvangirai is in good physical health, but appears
emotionally devastated. END SUMMARY.
¶3. (SBU) Tsvangirai and his wife Susan were passengers in
the second car of a three-car convoy at about 4 pm local time
on March 6 traveling about 75 kilometers south of Harare en
route to Tsvangirai’s rural home of Buhera. Tsvangirai told
the Ambassador at the hospital on March 7 that he heard a
loud noise, looked up, and saw a truck traveling in the
opposite direction hit a buckled portion of the road. The
truck swerved to avoid the first car in Tsvangirai’s convoy,
then appeared to hit soft tar and lost control. It then
struck the rear side of Tsvangirai’s car which then
overturned. Tsvangirai told the Ambassador there was a
one-in-one-thousand chance that this was an intentional act.
¶4. (SBU) The truck that hit Tsvangirai was the lead truck of
a two-truck team that was part of a health project supporting
the distribution of HIV commodities in Zimbabwe. The driver
of the second truck, Daniso Machipisa, said the incident
occurred on a patch of road that had just been repaired. The
tar had been built into a hump across the road at the end of
the patch and was still wet. The driver of the truck that
struck Tsvangirai, Mwanda, told Machipisa after the incident
that he drove through a patch of wet tar and over the wet
hump at which point his truck swerved and side-swiped what
turned out to be Tsvangirai’s vehicle. (NOTE: The
Harare-Masvingo road where the crash occurred is notorious
for potholes and accidents. END NOTE.)
¶5. (SBU) According to witnesses, Susan Tsvangirai was
ejected from the car. She was taken to a local hospital but
was either dead on arrival or died shortly thereafter.
Mwanda was taken to a nearby police station and has been in
¶6. (SBU) Both trucks belong to a contractor whose HIV/AIDS
work is co-financed by the U.S. and UK. The trucks, which
were purchased by the USG, carry 81 TCE license plates and
have USAID insignias. The “81” refers to the U.S. and the
“TCE” indicates they are involved in assistance. The plate
confers no diplomatic status although entry is duty free.
Neither Machipisa nor Mwanda is a USG employee.
¶7. (SBU) In the Ambassador’s March 7 meeting with
Tsvangirai, the prime minister was lucid and appeared in
relatively good health considering the circumstance. He told
the Ambassador he was focused on the funeral and then
Qthe Ambassador he was focused on the funeral and then
returning to his office. Later in the day, he was flown to
Botswana for precautionary testing and returned today. The
Ambassador saw him soon after his return. Bandages had been
removed from his head and he said he felt fine. In contrast
to the March 7 meeting, however, he seemed emotionally
devastated. No doubt his loss is settling in. He is
fortified by the presence at his home of his children and
other immediate family, and hundreds of well-wishers from his
home village and from the MDC.
HARARE 00000194 002 OF 002
¶8. (U) Upon returning from Botswana, Tsvangirai spoke to the
press and stated that the incident was an accident, and not
foulplay. He told journalists, as he had told the Ambassador
on March 7, that there was a one-in-one-thousand chance that
this was intentional. The MDC has said it believes the crash
was an accident, but said it would conduct an investigation.
¶9. (SBU) A private church service will take place tomorrow
(Tsvangirai’s 57th birthday), and later in the day a public
memorial event in a local stadium. The funeral will take
place in Buhera on Wednesday.
¶10. (SBU) ACTION REQUEST: In the wake of the accident,
there has been significant confusion about what took place
and speculation about whether ZANU-PF was involved.
Tsvangirai’s statement to the press was a positive step. MDC
spokesman and Minister of Information Nelson Chamisa
requested that the USG issue a statement supporting
Tsvangirai’s statement. We suggest the following:
“We are aware that Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has
spoken to the press and stated his belief that the incident
in which his car was struck and his wife killed was an
accident. This is our understanding as well. We again
extend our condolences to Mr. Tsvangirai, his family, and the
people of Zimbabwe; and wish him the best when he returns to
work to confront the difficult problems facing Zimbabwe.”
END ACTION REQUEST.