Susan’s Death: Mourning Blurs Political Divide

THE commuter omnibus was noisy. Its windows were rattling from the loud music the driver was playing and commuters were speaking at the top of their voices on various issues, among them how they intended to spend the evening.

It was just like any normal Friday until one of the passengers in the omnibus asked the driver to lower the volume of the radio for him to receive a call on his mobile phone.

“What did you say? An accident? Where? Who? (Morgan) Tsvangirai and wife? Are they okay? Where are they? How did it happen?” the commuter asked the caller.

The mere mention of the name Tsvangirai attracted attention from the rest of the commuters who immediately asked their fellow passenger what had happened to the prime minister.

The man told the commuters that he had received a call to the effect that Tsvangirai and his wife were involved in a horror car accident in Beatrice along the Harare-Masvingo road.

Susan, he continued, had died.

Shock engulfed the commuter omnibus as passengers could not believe what they had just heard.

Some shook their heads, some cried and others said they would only believe the “story” if confirmed by both MDC-T and government officials.

The driver tuned the radio to Power FM for the 6pm news bulletin, but there was nothing about the accident.

A debate ensued in the omnibus on the possible causes of the accident with the majority of passengers alleging that government had something to do with the crash.

They argued that Zanu PF hardliners in government were not happy with Tsvangirai being prime minister in the inclusive government and had hatched a plot to eliminate him.

The debate raged on until most of the passengers had been dropped at their respective destinations.
Friday March 6 was indeed a black day for many Zimbabweans despite their political affiliations as they battled to cope with the death of Susan — Tsvangirai’s wife of 31 years.

The question many asked themselves was why such a tragedy had to take place at a time when the inclusive government had just been formed after 10 years of political and economic crisis.

Susan passed on only a month after her husband was sworn in as prime minister of Zimbabwe and after enduring a decade in which Tsvangirai was brutalised and arrested by state security agents on numerous occasions.  

The death of Susan touched a number of Zimbabweans. Many people travelled from around the country to pay their last respects at Tsvangirai’s family home in Strathaven, Harare.

A day after the fatal crash, MDC-T youths from different provinces were at Tsvangirai’s home singing and dancing in celebration of Susan’s life, while awaiting the return of the prime minister from Botswana where he was flown for further medical attention, and the arrival of his children from overseas.

Tuesday’s church service at the Methodist Church in Mabelreign, Harare, was emotional as both formations of the MDC and Zanu PF put aside their political differences to remember Susan’s life and give her a good sendoff.

President Robert Mugabe told the congregation that he was saddened by the death of Susan at a time when Zimbabweans were working together to ensure peace and progress in the country.

Mugabe urged Zimbabweans to support Tsvangirai in these trying times.

He said: “Accept it (Susan’s death). It is the hand of God. Life is not an empty dream. It is a very fertile dream. Rest assured we are with you, Honourable Prime Minister. Our hearts on this day and the days to follow are with you.”

Also present at the church service were the two vice-presidents, Joice Mujuru and Joseph Msika, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, Minister of State John Nkomo, Education minister David Coltart, co-Home Affairs ministers Kembo Mohadi and Giles Mutsekwa and Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono, among others.

As the service was taking place, thousands of MDC-T supporters were flocking into the Glamis Stadium in Harare for the memorial service later that day.

At the stadium, Tsvangirai’s son Edwin thanked people gathered for paying tribute to his mother whom he described as a loving mother who taught them to “share, give, love and help people in the country”.
“The family would want time to withdraw from public life to help our father grieve and heal so that we prepare him to take the nation forward,” Edwin said.

MDC-T secretary-general Tendai Biti said the death of Susan had shocked and traumatised many people.
“The lesson we all get from the passing on of Mrs Tsvangirai is that we are all lodgers and tenants of God. God will take you without any preparation.

The question that is however on every one of us that we can’t answer is why? Why now?” Biti said.

He said Susan was a woman reproduced in several different forms, among them mother to Tsvangirai’s children, a mother to the MDC struggle, an activist and a revolutionary.

Mourners could be seen crying as Biti narrated what Tsvangirai told him about the accident.

“The president told me that Mrs Tsvangirai was thrown out of the back of the car. The aides rushed to help Tsvangirai first but he demanded they go and look at his wife,” Biti said.  “They tried to help her but could see that there was no life. When she was brought close to the (MDC) president she waved her hand at him as if she was saying bye-bye.”

Biti assured Tsvangirai that the party and its supporters would assist him to overcome the grief.

“Maybe this death is to give us strength. Let us use the death to gain strength, determination and inspiration in everything that we do. The passing of Mrs Tsvangirai is an occasion of celebration and I know what she would have wanted,” he said.

Civil society said Susan was a caring woman determined to see change in Zimbabwe and was always supportive of her husband.

While Tsvangirai has ruled out foul play, Zimbabwe National Students Union president Clever Bere said there was need for an independent investigation into the crash.

Bere said: “Zimbabwe has a long history of politically-motivated accidents. We call for an independent and impartial inquiry into the real cause of the accident. We continue bleeding unless an independent team gives us a satisfying report.”

After the Glamis stadium memorial, Susan’s body was taken to Tsvangirai’s Buhera rural home where she was buried on Wednesday.

Thousands of people witnessed the burial.

BY WONGAI ZHANGAZHA

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