Robert Mugabe tells memorial service for Susan Tsvangirai: ‘Violence must stop’

Jan Raath in Harare

President Mugabe made a call for peace between supporters of his and Morgan Tsvangirai's parties yesterday as he unexpectedly joined hundreds of people mourning the death of the Prime Minister's wife, Susan.

We are sincere that we would want peace and a conducive environment in the country, he told the packed Methodist church in Harare where the Tsvangirais were regular worshippers. Political violence among our supporters must stop and we must work together to make sure that we have a good country and good lives for everybody.

Mr Mugabe has rarely shown such a human, conciliatory side since 1980, when he made an impassioned appeal for reconciliation after the bloody civil war against the former white minority Rhodesian Government. He spoke then of the age of love and of turning swords into ploughshares.

Yesterday he assured the Tsvangirai family, and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), that we are mourning with you, our hearts are with you. He went on: This issue of politics has been affecting our lives and families badly. People don't know the troubles and dirty wars that we fight.

Mrs Tsvangirai was killed on Friday when the car that she and her husband were travelling in collided with an aid vehicle south of Harare.

Mr Tsvangirai was badly bruised, and yesterday his face was still swollen. He uttered one sentence: Let us celebrate her existence as God's gift to me and us. Several times during the church service Mr Tsvangirai was unable to restrain his tears.

Mr Mugabe's appeal came amid widespread suspicion that the accident was an assassination attempt by his secret police, who have tried repeatedly to eliminate Mr Tsvangirai in the decade since the MDC was formed.The Prime Minister, however, declared on Monday that the collision was an accident.

Observers say that the coalition Government is in need of a spirit of trust between the two groups, as Mr Mugabe's side engages in a war of attrition to curtail the MDC's new authority by blocking the release of political prisoners, trying to usurp the powers of MDC ministers and appointing old loyalists of Mr Mugabe's Zanu (PF) party to powerful positions. In the past six weeks there has been a wave of attacks by MDC supporters around the country to avenge the violent repression carried out by Mr Mugabe's supporters before elections last year.

The 15,000 MDC supporters that thronged a stadium yesterday for a rally to honour Mrs Tsvangirai jeered every mention of Mr Mugabe and roared when Jonah Bere, a student leader, said: Our history is littered with politically motivated accidents.

However, they later applauded when Mr Tsvangirai's eldest son, Edwin, 30, spoke. He said: I want to thank his excellency, the President [Mr Mugabe], for his words that changed my understanding of him.

A Western diplomat said: Mugabe's gesture is remarkable there really seems to be a sign of genuine sincerity and a willingness to work with the MDC. But he has a shocking record on meeting his undertakings. Behind him there is also a huge reservoir of ill will against the MDC among the Zanu (PF) hardliners. It's also very important for him to win the MDC's trust. This could well end up with an MDC government and Mugabe and his cohorts in the dock.

The Times

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