The death last week of Suzan Tsvangarai should weigh heavily on the conscience of Zimbabwean leaders. It is the height of carelessness to allow a prime minister and his wife to practically ride in a lone car, especially if you know the scavenger trucks of Africa.
That gross carelessness has cost Mrs. Tsvangarai her life and may she rest in peace. It is a wonder that we were spared a double tragedy with the escape of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangarai, even if his head hosted a repeat visit of none-too-undamaging blows.
In my long and roaming life, I’ve seen these scavenger trucks and how they cause inexplicable death, and am happy that the Zimbabwe one didn’t have another target. It is very comforting to hear from the prime minister himself that the accident was genuine.
I am wary of these African trucks because I’ve seen that some of them have an appetite that is not whetted by anything short of a person with undesired verbal vitriol. I shudder, for instance, when I remember the scary trucks of Uganda in the 1970s.
Then, Uganda was under the vicious rule of Idi Amini. And during Amini’s rule, you did not go around blabbering about arbitrary killings and unexplained disappearances unless you knew you were made out of concrete.
Many people actually thought they were made of concrete. Unfortunately, when they learnt they were not, it was too late and they were already as flat as the tarmac they lay on, their bodies drawing patterns of oversized, Bridgestone-tyre marks.
If you’ve been to Kampala, Uganda, for instance, you’ve seen Luwum Street. That street is named after a man who was known as a leading voice against the excesses of the Amini regime in the 1970s, and who even dared deliver a note of protest to him.
That 16th February 1977, the Anglican Archbishop Janani Jakaliya Luwum was arrested, accused of treason. With ministers Erinayo Wilson Oryema and Charles Oboth Ofumbi, they were paraded at a rally as fellow suspects read out confessions implicating them.
The next day the radio announced that the three had died, run over by a truck as they tried to escape. It was explained that they tried to overpower the driver of the vehicle that was taking them back to the cells, but no detail was given of how a truck happened to be near!
In Kenya in the 1980s and in 1990, there was an equally vocal bishop who mistook his flesh for concrete.
Bishop Alexander Kipsang Muge had for long rubbed the Moi government the wrong way, by articulating the grievances of the poor and oppressed, until one minister got fed up and warned him against visiting his constituency.
On 14th August 1990, Bishop Muge defied the minister’s ban and visited the constituency in Busia. On his way back, Muge was hit by a milk truck in an accident that left him dead.
Persistent whispers were that the truck had been abandoned there when it broke down and no one understood how it was able to move on that afternoon.
Earlier, in Kenya again, an even more bizarre death that defied definition had taken place, but this time it did not involve a truck.
The charred remains of a minister’s body, with a bullet hole, were found in a remote forest of the Lake Victoria province of Kisumu. All indications were that it was a suicide case, because on the scene were found a gun, a jerry can of petrol and a matchbox.
To this day, no one can understand how foreign affairs minister John Robert Ouko shot himself in the head, chopped his own hands off and then set himself ablaze!
A crack tem of Scotland Yard officers was called in to investigate, even if somehow the witnesses seemed to die one after the other.
First, the herds boy who had sighted the burnt remains somehow collided with a police bullet. Then the internal security minister, Hezekiah Oyugi, suddenly got afflicted with a stomach ailment that saw his demise.
Even in far-off Nairobi, a primary school student who was accidentally shot dead by police seemed to have connections with the area. Still, doggedly, the investigation team was making progress.
Until their leader got down with a stomach infection and the whole team took flight!