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Published: June 1, 2009
THE trial of a man accused of causing the death of the wife of Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister in a March 6 car crash has ended in Chivu.
Magistrate Tapera Bvudzijena postponed judgment after listening to the testimony of Chinowona Mwanda in a trial lasting two weeks.
Mwanda was driving along the “dangerous” Harare-Masvingo highway when his Nissan UD truck sideswiped the Prime Minister’s Land Cruiser which overturned – throwing Susan Tsvangirai out to her death.
The Prime Minister, who had been sworn-in just under a month before the crash, survived with minor injuries. Tsvangirai has insisted the crash was an accident after some of his supporters said they believed it was a plot.
A traffic accident evaluator said Mwanda should have been able to brake and regain control of his vehicle when it hit a hump.
Prosecutor John Hama, in closing arguments last Friday, said Mwanda had been negligent in driving at 80km/h – which is the normal speed limit – given the state of the road.
Mwanda and his lawyers have maintained all along that the abysmal state of the Harare-Masvingo highway caused the accident.
The 35-year-old Mwanda, who had to use his necktie to wipe off considerable streams of sweat from his face, said he had been “thrown up from his seat” by a hump which his lawyers say is a mound of dried concrete left by road workers.
He said: “I hit a hump and I was thrown up from my seat, losing control of the vehicle. In the process, my vehicle side-swiped the vehicle in the opposite lane.
“I deny that I was speeding because I managed to control my vehicle and stopped it within 37,5m, which is expected for someone driving at 60km/h.”
Mwanda said he had been deceived by “black patches” on the section of the road where the crash happened which gave an impression that the road had been recently repaired.
He said: “I tried to apply the brakes, but I was forced to release the brakes. In the process, the truck swerved into the lane for oncoming traffic.”
He told the court he regained control and quickly ran back to check on the occupants of the Cruiser which was carrying the Prime Minister, his wife, an aide and driver Benson Mujeyi. The Prime Minister was on his way to his rural home in Buhera.
The Prime Minister’s car had landed on its roof some 50m from the road after rolling at least three times, investigators said.
“I saw the Prime Minister running towards the road and he was bleeding on his head,” Mwanda said. “I said to him ‘you are bleeding, what happened to you?’ to which he replied: “I have come out of that car which has overturned.”
Mwanda said he proceeded to the car to see if he could lend a hand.
“There were no other people in the vehicle which had landed on its roof facing towards Harare. It was clear to me the other occupants had been thrown out of the car,” Mwanda said.
He said he observed that the Prime Minister’s wife had bruises on the leg and a cut on the head. She was pronounced dead on arrival at Beatrice Hospital.
The magistrate has asked prosecutors and defence lawyers to submit written closing arguments before passing judgment. (New Zimbabwe) (ZimEye, Zimbabwe)