Susan Tsvangirai, wife of Zimbabwean opposition-leader-turned-Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, died Friday afternoon in an apparent road accident that also injured the premier. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader was travelling with his wife from the capital, Harare, to his rural home near Buhera, when their Mercedes collided head-on with a heavy truck. Mrs. Tsvangirai suffered serious injuries and died soon afterwards. Her husband, 56, was conscious and appeared to be in a stable condition after the accident, although not yet aware of his wife's fate. "I'm worried about my wife," he told a TIME correspondent at at Avenues Clinic in Harare, shortly before he was visited by his erstwhile nemesis, President Robert Mugabe.
Despite Zimbabwe's recent history of political violence against opponents of President Mugabe, all indications are that there was no reason to suspect foul play in the death of Mrs. Tsvangirai. A Harare-based goods trader, Madeline Zhou, who passed by the scene of the accident, told TIME, "It was horrible. Tragic. We thought no one survived." Still, enemies of Mugabe's Zanu-PF party have been known to have been killed in staged accidents, and rumours immediately began circulating across Zimbabwe. One veteran Zimbabwean journalist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that whatever the true circumstances of Mrs. Tsvangirai's death, for many Zimbabweans "the immediate conclusion will be that this accident was foul play." (See pictures of political violence in Zimbabwe)
Morgan and Susan Tsvangirai were married in 1978 and had six children. Tsvangirai was sworn in last month as prime minister as part of a power-sharing deal meant to end the political stalemate that followed the March 2008 elections in which Tsvangirai beat Mugabe in the presidential race, prompting the ruling party to unleash a wave of repression against the MDC, in which around 200 activists were killed.