Morgan Tsvangirai hurt in Zimbabwe car crash

March 6, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was hurt along with his wife and an aide in a car crash on the outskirts of the capital Friday, his spokesman said. The three were taken to a Harare hospital after their car sideswiped a truck, Tsvangirai spokesman James Maridadi said. The group had been traveling to a weekend rally in Tsvangirai's home region, south of Harare, he said.

"Our understanding is none of the injuries are life-threatening," Maridadi said. Later, he said Tsvangirai was under observation and that he had no information about the condition of the prime minister's wife, Susan. The couple married in 1978 and have six children.

The prime minister's Web site said Susan Tsvangirai was in critical condition, but it was not clear how long the information had been posted.

State television canceled its first evening newscast without explanation and reported nothing about the accident in its second.

Tsvangirai was sworn in Feb. 11 as Zimbabwe's prime minister in a power-sharing deal meant to end almost a year of deadly stalemate with Robert Mugabe, who remains president. The unity government has been rocky after years of rivalry between Tsvangirai, a former trade union leader, and Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980.

He formed his Movement for Democratic Change a decade ago. As it emerged as a serious political challenger, Tsvangirai repeatedly faced the wrath of Mugabe's ZANU-PF, Tsvangirai has been beaten and was once nearly thrown from a 10th floor window by suspected government thugs.

Scores of Tsvangirai supporters were in prison even as he joined the government. Several have since been released, but not prominent party member Roy Bennett.

Bennett, Tsvangirai's nominee for deputy agriculture minister, has been jailed since Feb. 13. He faces weapons charges linked to long-discredited claims Tsvangirai's party was plotting to use force to overthrow Mugabe.

Bennett's lawyers had hoped he would be freed Wednesday, after the High Court ruled the state had no right to oppose bail. Prosecutors have appealed the bail ruling and state TV reported Friday that a magistrate had been taken into custody for "alleged abuse of office" for signing a release order for Bennett based on the High Court ruling. State TV quoted police as saying the release order should not have been signed while the Supreme Court was considering the bail ruling.

Zimbabwe has the world's highest official inflation rate, a hunger crisis that has left most of its people dependent on foreign handouts and a cholera epidemic blamed on the collapse of a once-enviable health and sanitation system. Cholera has sickened more than 80,000 and killed more than 3,800 people since August.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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