AS the nation rides out the storm of shock and grief following the death of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s wife Susan in a road accident last Friday, relevant authorities need to move quickly to address a number of questions which arose as a result of the incident to prevent divisive and damaging suspicions within the new government.
The first thing which needs to be done is to clear suspicions surrounding the accident. The clearance of suspicions should not be a cover-up, but a well-meaning explanation of what happened informed by outcomes of serious and impartial investigation.
Given this country’s long history of fatal, controversial and seemingly politically-motivated road accidents, a full and thorough investigation of the crash involving Tsvangirai and his wife should be conducted as soon as possible. The results of those investigations must be made public.
The nation needs to know what exactly happened. The facts and the truth must come out. Only this way can authorities be able to effectively deal with the worries of the public over this issue.Â
President Robert Mugabe and Tsvangirai have been trying to manage the situation through different but complementary actions which have helped to calm down frayed nerves. It was important for them to do that, not in the interests of keeping the truth under wraps and hushing up angst-ridden people, but national peace and stability.
The situation was volatile as senior opposition officials and their agitated supporters murmured “murder most foul” behind-the-scenes.
The crash could have easily triggered civil unrest if it was not well-managed. But credit goes to the leadership for handling the issue in a fairly competent manner, apart from failure to timely disclose relevant details to shed light on the situation and curb wild speculation.
Although most of his supporters would not agree with him, Tsvangirai gave his honest opinion when he said he did not think there was a plot. He said he thought it was a genuine accident and if there was foul play chances were one in a thousand. This helped to calm down the nation.
It also helped acquit Mugabe’s political and security hacks who in the eyes of the public were guilty by virtue of history.
At the same time Tsvangirai’s remarks did not help him win critics who claim he said it was a genuine accident because his allies, the Americans and British, were involved.
The cynics say if Tsvangirai said it was a plot it would then mean that the Americans and British were part of the intrigue as their truck and driver were involved unless it was in that case suggested they had been infiltrated by local agents.
The whole affair is entangled in a web of complex conspiracy theories.
Despite Tsvangirai’s remarks, it is clear judging by the public reaction at Glamis stadium on Tuesday after student leader Clever Bere’s statements which referred to previous controversial accidents in this country and the need for a comprehensive probe, that most people, at least within the MDC, suspect that the crash was due to criminal political action.
To dispel these lingering suspicions, the issue must be systematically and comprehensively probed. The accident evaluation report and sketch plan will be available by Monday and we can then see what they say. Â
By his standards, Mugabe this time reacted fast and with both feet on the ground.
Full marks to him for that, although his unrelenting critics say it was merely damage limitation. In the past, for example during the cholera disaster, he simply did not bother. Up to date his public attitude towards the cholera epidemic remains a source of disenchantment and anger to a lot of people.
In the past Mugabe’s attitude towards loss of lives as a result of political violence and related incidents had been less than caring.Â
This week at least he condemned political violence and said it must not be tolerated. This is what he should have been doing since he came to power in 1980. It must not just be opportunistic and self-serving.
Although Mugabe and Tsvangirai did well to quieten the uneasy populace and hold together the shaky inclusive government structure there are still too many questions which arise after the accident.
It would be good for the public to have accounts of what happened from both drivers —— Tsvangirai’s and the USAid/Crown Agents one. Reports from those who were in the escort cars in front and at the back of the prime minister’s vehicle would be helpful. Further, it would be better to hear in detail from the horse’s mouth, the prime minister himself.
Besides, the public would also like to hear in detail from USAid officials and the Crown Agents (which apparently owned the truck and employed its driver), eyewitnesses and the police. USAid provided funds to buy the truck which is owned by the Crown Agents.
The driver is employed by them.
What we have heard from some actors so far amounts to obfuscation. Let us have clarity of accounts and issues.
This would give the public enough information to assess whether it was an accident or a sinister plot.
BY DUMISANI MULEYA