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Car crash kills wife of Zimbabwe's new prime minister

Just as the world is watching to see if Zimbabwe's new government is really going to share power, comes the tragic news that a car accident has killed the wife of prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Quiet but firm, Susan Tsvangirai was always a great support to her husband, throughout his lengthy treason trial, his nights in jail and the beating by police in March 2007 in which his skull was fractured. The couple married in 1978.

Her death is a terrible blow to Tsvangirai. While Morgan was busy in his public life, first as a trade union leader and then as the leader of Zimbabwe's opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Susan was the devoted mother of the couple's six children. She maintained a warm home where Tsvangirai often retreated for relaxation and where his deputies and others in the MDC were welcome.

Susan Tsvangirai was also known for making supportive visits to the many MDC members in the hospital or in jail.

Tsvangirai, who will turn 57 later this month, received minor injuries in the crash, which happened Friday afternoon just south of Harare on a busy main road. Reports say that a large truck veered out of its lane and hit the Tsvangirai's vehicle head on. They were traveling to Tsvangirai's home in Buhera, in rural southern Zimbabwe where the new prime minister was to speak on Saturday.

Tsvangirai is not seriously injured but is in shock, according to Nelson Chamisa, the MDC's spokesman and the new minister of information and technology in the government.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his wife, Grace, have already paid a visit to Tsvangirai in the hospital.

Morgan Tsvangirai has been robbed of a crucial support just as he is challenged to lead Zimbabwe out of its humanitarian crisis marked by a deadly cholera epidemic and growing hunger. Another key supporter, Roy Bennett, remains in jail despite two court orders calling for his release.

"Tsvangirai has been under immense pressure for several years, but this must be the worst time for him," commented a Zimbabwean journalist in Harare.