Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai suffered a second family tragedy within a month when his three-year-old grandson died in a swimming pool accident weeks after his wife was killed in a car crash.
The grandson, Sean, was staying at Tsvangirai’s house in Strathaven, a suburb of the capital, Harare, when he was found drowned in the family pool on Saturday.
“The boy had wandered off and was found later in the pool of the house,” said James Maridadi, Tsvangirai’s spokesman.
Sean was the son of Garikai Tsvangirai. The family, who live in Canada, were in Zimbabwe for the funeral of Garikai’s mother, Susan, who died in a car accident on March 6. Garikai and his wife, Lilian, had been due to return to Canada on Sunday. Sean is to be buried next to his grandmother in her home village of Buhera.
The prime minister and leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), who had only recently returned to work after being injured in the car crash, cut short a government retreat in Victoria Falls to return to the capital.
The meeting was designed to set priorities for the government’s 100-day short-term economic recovery plan. Last week Tsvangirai was part of a delegation that attended a regional Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) summit in Swaziland.
The SADC pledged to assist the new government to raise the US$8.3 billion it says it needs to rebuild its shattered economy after years of hyperinflation.
People in Harare, a bastion of MDC support, said they were saddened by the news of the grandson’s death.
Duncan Tembe, 29, who works at an Internet shop, said: “It’s unbelievable. It’s too tragic, too much for one man to take.”
Nearby in the central business district, a Sunday service at El Shadai church offered prayers for the Tsvangirai family.
The toddler’s death will raise new concerns over Tsvangirai’s preparedness to push through reforms in Zimbabwe so soon after the loss of his wife and barely a month after he was sworn in to lead the country’s unity government.
Besides trying to fix the economy, Tsvangirai is expected to take a key role in fashioning a new constitution, implementing a land audit, attempting to stop land invasions and organizing fresh elections within the next 18 months.
On all of these issues Tsvangirai will have to assert his authority over the president, Robert Mugabe, if he is to win over skeptical Western donors — particularly the US and EU — who want to see a sustained period of reform before giving aid.
According to his spokesman, Tsvangirai’s ministerial colleagues from MDC and Zanu-PF, including Mugabe, sent a note of collective condolence for his loss. It said: “Our deepest condolences. Be strong.”