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Tsvangirai says crash an accident

Morgan Tsvangirai addresses concerns about the crash

Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has said the car crash that killed his wife Susan was an accident.

Mr Tsvangirai said there was only a "one in a thousand" chance that the incident involved any foul play.

He was speaking as the lorry driver involved in the collision was granted bail after appearing in court charged with culpable homicide.

Mr Tsvangirai has returned to Zimbabwe to prepare his wife's funeral after undergoing treatment in Botswana.

"When something happens, there is always speculation but I want to say in this case, if there was any foul play, it was one in a thousand," Mr Tsvangirai was quoted as telling mourners outside his home in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare.

I want to thank God for giving me 31 years with my wife
Morgan Tsvangirai
Zimbabwean prime minister

Wearing dark glasses and with his face still swollen, he said: "It was an accident and unfortunately it took her [Susan's] life."

Many Zimbabweans are suspicious about Mrs Tsvangirai's death, because of past acrimony between Mr Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe.

Police have said a lorry carrying aid crossed into the lane in which the prime minister's 4x4 was travelling on Friday and side-swiped the vehicle, causing it to roll over three times.

'Trials and tribulations'

Lorry driver Chinoona Mwanda, 35, appeared on Monday at a magistrates court in the town of Chivu in the province of Mashonaland East, about 200km (124 miles) south-east of Harare.

His lawyer earlier said Mr Mwanda would deny a charge of culpable homicide as he blamed the collision on the poor state of the road.

But the truck driver was not asked to plead at Monday's hearing. Mr Mwanda was granted bail of $100 (£72) and ordered to hand in his travel documents ahead of his next court appearance on 23 March.

The vehicle Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was riding in during his accident on 6 March
The car is said to have rolled three times after being hit by an aid truck

In Harare, thousands of people from the townships have been walking long distances to the prime minister's home in Strathaven, a western suburb of the capital, to pay their respects to Mrs Tsvangirai.

Mr Tsvangirai said he had returned to Harare to resume work because that was what his wife would have wanted.

"I want to thank God for giving me 31 years with my wife," he said.

"We know that we shall all die, but let's celebrate the life of Susan because we have gone through trials and tribulations together," he said.

Zimbabwean journalist Brian Hungwe says a rally is to be held at Glamis Stadium in Harare on Tuesday to pay tribute to Mrs Tsvangirai on the eve of her burial.

President Mugabe and his wife Grace visited the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader's bedside on Friday evening at a private clinic in Harare.

IMF comes calling

Mr Tsvangirai, who had previously spent time in Botswana while in opposition, flew there on Saturday for medical tests and rest.

The British foreign ministry said the truck was part of an aid project jointly funded by the US and UK and that the crash appeared to be "a genuine accident".

The collision came two days after Mr Tsvangirai delivered his maiden speech to parliament following his swearing in as premier in a power-sharing government.

But relations between the MDC and Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party remain tense, with MDC ministerial nominee Roy Bennett still in custody, accused of links to an alleged plot to kill Mr Mugabe.

Also on Monday, Zimbabwe's government held its first meeting with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in more than two years.

Correspondents say Zimbabwe's relations with the IMF have effectively been suspended since the fund's last visit in December 2006 when the country was almost expelled from the organisation.

Zimbabwe's economy has been in steep decline for years and inflation - estimated by some economists at 10 sextillion per cent - has left its currency almost worthless.



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