9 Mar 2009

Zimbabwe: a dangerous place to drive

ReutersToday, the Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has returned to Zimbabwe after treatment in Botswana for injuries from the car accident which killed his wife, Susan.

Tsvangirai, who is President Robert Mugabe’s most hated political rival, said: “In such incidents there is always speculation but in this case I want to assure you that if there was any foul play it would probably be one in 1,000.”

But Zimbabwean history has so many mysterious car crashes which kill prominent people that many in the country just assume it was an assassination attempt.

There are webpages devoted to the subject of untimely deaths. The code often used is “he swerved to avoid a black dog”, which translates as “an army truck drove into him”.

All weekend I’ve been receiving phone calls and emails from Zimbabwean friends who assume – without evidence – that the crash which killed Susan Tsvangirai was a “black dog” incident, even though the truck involved was carrying Aids drugs and did not belong to the army.

So here’s a list of some of the prominent Zimbabweans who have died in car accidents which may, or may not, have involved black dogs:

1979: Josiah Tongogara, Mugabe’s great rival for the leadership of Zanu-PF
1992: Christopher Giwa, anti-Mugabe student leader
1994: Sydney Malunga, opposition politician
1995: Chris Ushewokunze, industry and commerce minister
1997: Peter Pamire, businessman suspected of getting too close to Mugabe’s wife, Grace
2001: Moven Mahachi, hardline Zanu-PF ally of Mugabe
2001: Border Gezi, hardline Zanu-PF ally of Mugabe
2007: Brigadier Armstrong Gunda, suspected of involvement in a coup attempt
2008: Elliot Manyika, minister and former regional governor.

There are many others, and I haven’t started on those who “ate a poisoned apple”. Truly Zimbabwe is a dangerous place to drive, or to get involved in politics.

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