Zimbabwe

Mujuru death: Many questions unanswered

2012-02-08 08:00

Special Report

Zim fin min wants to hike roadblock fines
Zim fin min wants to hike roadblock fines

Bad news for drivers in Zimbabwe: the finance minister wants to increase the fines at roadblocks, something seen by many as a way for the cash-strapped government to raise money.

Harare - An inquest to clear up the cause of a fire that killed an influential former general in Zimbabwe's army has left many questions unanswered, amid suspicion he was assassinated.

The last testimony to a commission of inquest on the death of Solomon Mujuru, aged 66, was given on Monday. The magistrate heading up the investigation would not say when a final report would be issued.

Mujuru, a veteran of the liberation war against the whites-only government in former Rhodesia, was regarded as one of the most influential and wealthy figures in the southern African country.

Observers considered him a king-maker within the ruling Zanu-PF party. He was reportedly pushing for his wife, Joice - one of two vice-presidents - to become the country's leader after long-serving President Robert Mugabe.

Zimbabwe's president, aged 87 and believed to be in poor health, has stated his intention to retain his seat and contest the next election.

The country will likely go to the polls this year or next, although political squabbling has prevented a date from being set.

One evening in August 2011, the retired general - who owned mining interests in the south of the country - is said to have gone to a local bar. Mujuru drank whiskey with other patrons before announcing he would turn in for the night at his nearby farm.

Closed-casket funeral

In the middle of the night, police guards awoke to find Mujuru's house on fire. The general was declared dead and an inquest was opened into the incident.

Highlighting his popularity across the country's political divides, Mujuru's closed-casket funeral drew tens of thousands - one of the largest such gatherings in Zimbabwe since independence in 1980.

The former guerilla commander - who seldom spoke and cut an enigmatic figure - had a reputation as one of the few within the ruling party who would criticize Mugabe to his face.

"The Mujuru affair has the potential to severely destabilize Zanu-PF in the months before the election," warned a Western diplomat, requesting anonymity. "They really needed a clear-cut outcome of accidental death."

A police statement at the opening of the inquest stated there was no evidence of foul play, but the 37 witnesses who gave testimonies at the hearings painted a more complex picture.

During the three-week inquest it emerged that the police had mishandled crucial evidence, using a contaminated plastic shopping bag to bundle up the remains of Mujuru's carbonised body.

His security guards were unprepared for the fire, lacking even radio equipment to call for help, the commission was also told.

The fire department too was tardy in responding. The truck that eventually arrived was useless, as it had a leak in its water tank and showed up empty.

Suspicion of foul play

Further fuelling suspicion of foul play, Mujuru's housekeeper, Rosemary Shoti, said she heard gunshots two hours before the fire was discovered. An AK47 assault rifle lay near the burned body.

Police pathologist Gabriel Alvero even admitted he was uncertain the corpse he examined was that of the general, as he lacked equipment and access.

Critics of Mugabe, including some former fighters in the liberation war, say they would not be surprised if scores were being settled.

They cite a long list of prominent political figures who they claim were killed by Zanu-PF since the battle against the white minority-led government kicked off in 1975.

Magistrate Walter Chikwanha, in closing the testimony phase of the inquest, also rejected calls by Mujuru's family for the body to be exhumed for independent examination.

Read more on:    zanu-pf  |  robert mugabe  |  solomon mujuru  |  zimbabwe  |  southern africa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
X

SHARE:

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
3 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.