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Mugabe wishes strength to rival-turned-partner

 Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, left , and all his six children, no names available, during a church service  in Harare,Tuesday, March, ...
 Zimbabwe's prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai wipes tears from his eyes during a church service  in Harare, Tuesday, March, 10, 2009. Tsvangirai was at...
 A portrait of Susan,  the late wife of Zimbabwe's  prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai,  is placed near her coffin during a church service  in Harare, T...
 Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe holds a bible while addressing people during a church service in Harare, Tuesday, March 10, 2009. Mugabe  was atte...
 Vimbai Tsvangirai daughter of  Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai wipes tears from her eyes during a church service in Harare, Tuesday, Marc...

ZIMBABWE MORGAN TSVANGIRAI

Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, left , and all his six children, no names available, during a church service in Harare,Tuesday, March, ...

APTOPIX ZIMBABWE MORGAN TSVANGIRAI

Zimbabwe's prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai wipes tears from his eyes during a church service in Harare, Tuesday, March, 10, 2009. Tsvangirai was at...

APTOPIX ZIMBABWE MORGAN TSVANGIRAI

A portrait of Susan, the late wife of Zimbabwe's prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai, is placed near her coffin during a church service in Harare, T...

ZIMBABWE TSVANGIRAI

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe holds a bible while addressing people during a church service in Harare, Tuesday, March 10, 2009. Mugabe was atte...

ZIMBABWE TSVANGIRAI

Vimbai Tsvangirai daughter of Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai wipes tears from her eyes during a church service in Harare, Tuesday, Marc...

President Robert Mugabe joined thousands of Zimbabweans mourning the wife of a rival turned government partner, calling Tuesday for an end to political violence and wishing Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai strength for the nation-building work ahead.
Mugabe addressed about 1,000 government and political leaders and diplomats in the Methodist church attended by Susan Tsvangirai, who died in a car crash Friday. Her husband and children were also in the church, where her body rested in bronze coffin, as a crowd massed outside.
"We are sincerely saddened by the death of Susan and we hope that Morgan will remain strong," Mugabe said.
The president, who visited the injured Tsvangirai in the hospital the day of the wreck, said their fledgling coalition government has only just begun efforts to bring rebuild a country beset by political and economic crisis.
"We shall do our best, our possible best to ensure that the environment that we create in the country is a conducive environment," Mugabe said in calling for an end to violence.
Zimbabwe's long history of political violence blamed on Mugabe's supporters fueled speculation that Friday's crash, in which the prime minister was slightly injured, was not an accident. Tsvangirai sought to quell those rumors Monday, saying there was "no foul play" in the crash.
Speaking to questions swirling about the car accident and Susan Tsvangirai's death, Mugabe said: "I plead with you to accept it, it's the hand of God," according to British Broadcasting Corp.
Tsvangirai and his children and Mugabe all stood in turn next to Susan Tsvangirai's open casket, heads bowed.
Later, at a fairgrounds memorial service that Mugabe did not attend, the eldest of the Tsvangirais' six children, 29-year-old Edwin, told a crowd of some 15,000 he was moved by Mugabe's words. They "changed my understanding of him," the son said.
He also urged his father to look ahead to the work of rebuilding a country beset by political and economic crises.
"Our path is to grieve and heal, so we can prepare you for taking the nation forward," Edwin said.
Pall bearers carried the bronze coffin into the Harare fairgrounds across a red carpet strewn with rose petals.
Tsvangirai, who turned 57 on Tuesday, spoke only briefly Tuesday, telling the crowd at the fairgrounds: "Let's celebrate her existence as God's gift to me and to you."
Choirs sang hymns to the crowd, some wearing T-shirts declaring Susan Tsvangirai "our rock, our mother," or carrying handwritten signs praising her.
Tendai Biti, No. 2 in Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change and finance minister in the unity government formed last month, delivered the main eulogy. At one point, Biti turned to Tsvangirai and said: "You have no time to cry.
"All these people here are looking for your leadership. We will be there with you when needed," Biti said.
Burial was scheduled for Wednesday in the hometown of Tsvangirai's wife, Buhera, south of Harare, where she and her husband were going when their car crashed.
Mugabe agreed to share power with Tsvangirai under pressure from the leaders of neighboring countries after a year of political violence and deadlock following a presidential election in which Tsvangirai won the most votes.
Tsvangirai pulled out of a run-off because of state-sponsored attacks on his supporters, and Mugabe claimed victory despite widespread criticism that the second round was neither free nor fair.
Despite Tsvangirai's efforts to quash speculation about the wreck, the questions were raised at the fairgrounds memorial service.
Student leader Jonah Bere told the crowd of mourners: "Our hearts will remain bleeding until a fair and independent investigation has been completed. The accident remains consistent with the patterns of the past. Zimbabwe's political history is riddled with these accidents. We call for an independent inquiry."
In recent days, thousands of Zimbabweans have paid their respects at the Tsvangirai home in the capital.
The outpouring of sympathy is evidence of support for Tsvangirai, but also a release for emotions that built during months of economic collapse and of political unrest that has seen hundreds of political and human rights activists jailed, tortured and killed.
Zimbabwe's unity government faces the world's highest official inflation rate, a hunger crisis that has left most of its people dependent on foreign handouts and a cholera epidemic blamed on the collapse of a once-enviable health and sanitation system.
The United Nations said Monday that the number of cholera deaths had topped 4,000, with more than 89,000 cases.


Updated : 2021-03-08 21:19 GMT+08:00