THE BLOG

The Curious Case of Car Crashes in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe's infrastructure is embarrassingly rundown. Over the past decade, many of our most common roadways have degraded to the point of becoming impassable. Without a doubt, our roads are dangerous enough; but for many in opposition to Robert Mugabe, be they MDC or Mr. Mugabe's own ZANU-PF party, the most dangerous part of driving are Central Intelligence Officers who, under the command of the Zimbawe President, have allegedly used car wrecks as the excuse du jour for state-sponsored killings.

First came the death of Josiah Tongogara in 1979. As chief political rival to Mr. Mugabe, Tongogara was favored to become the first President of Zimbabwe. Mr. Mugabe was slated to be Prime Minister. Accusations of murder began immediately following the mysterious car accident that took Tongogara's life on the evening of December 26, 1979. A CIA intelligence briefing dated December 28, 1979 said Tongogara was a potential political rival to Mr. Mugabe because of his "... ambition, popularity and decisive style." On the same day, the US Embassy in Zambia reported, "Almost no one in Lusaka accepts Mugabe's assurance that Tongogara died accidentally. When the ambassador told the Soviet Ambassador the news, the surprised Soviet immediately charged 'inside job.'" The post-mortem found three wounds on Tongogara's upper torso, consistent with gunshot wounds. No one was prosecuted.

The most famous accident occurred in 2009 when PM Morgan Tsvangirai was injured, and his late wife Susan Tsvangirai was killed when their vehicle was violently sideswiped, causing it to flip over three times. Tom McDonald, the United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe from 1997 to 2001, said, "I'm skeptical about any motor vehicle accident in Zimbabwe involving an opposition figure... President Mugabe has a history of strange car accidents when someone lo and behold dies -- it's sort of his M.O.; of how they get rid of people they don't like... So, when I hear that Tsvangirai was in an accident, it gives me pause."

Later, Presidential Guard Captain Ibrahim Chasakara admitted that he had been responsible for the car accident that claimed the life of Susan Tsvangirai. Weeping, Chasakara begged forgiveness from the PM, his family and all Zimbabweans.

In June of this year, Former Mines Minister and Zanu PF MP, Edward Takaruza Chindori-Chininga died in a car crash. A week prior to the accident, Mr. Chininga released a damning report about the involvement of ZANU-PF officials and allies in the diamond industry. In what was one of the sloppier cover-ups our country has seen, State media reported Mr. Chininga failed to stop at a T-intersection, ramming head on into a tree. However, there are no nearby trees at that junction where the accident reportedly occurred. The head-on crash killed Mr. Chininga, despite not being forcible enough to deploy the car's airbags or even crack the windshield. Additionally, two other passengers in the car walked away with minor injuries and never spoke to media. In a final affront to his legacy, Zanu-PF's supreme decision-making body, the politburo, turned down a request to declare Mr. Chininga a national hero.

The most recent alleged Mugabe-sponsored crash occurred earlier this week when activist Elliot Dhliwayo was on his way to Harare for a protest organized by the Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHR). Mr. Dhliwayo and another senior ROHR official were traveling along the highway towards Harare when two vehicles took turns sideswiping their car until it crashed. Mr. Dhliwayo died from the injuries sustained in the crash, leaving behind a wife and three young children. His passenger is currently hospitalized, but alive.

Robert Mugabe will stop at nothing to suppress those that speak out against corruption. From the beginning, I believe Mr. Mugabe has cowardly attempted to veil state-sponsored murders as car wrecks. Zimbabweans are not that naïve. May July 31 send an unmistakable message to the regime that corruption and violence will no longer be allowed to rule the land.