Zim: I heard 'gunfire', says Mujuru guard

2012-01-17 07:57

Harare – A security guard at the late Zimbabwean general, Solomon Mujuru’s property, Clement Runhare, said on Monday he heard what sounded like gunfire two hours before he was alerted that a fire had broken out at the general’s house.

He was testifying during the inquest into the death of Mujuru which opened at the Harare Magistrates Court on Monday.

He said the general drove through the entrance gate to the farm with a passenger in his car who he could not identify. No other human remains were found after farm workers and neighbours converged on the house to try and put out the flames.

He said a police protection detail did not have mobile phones to call the fire department and their police radio was broken.

On his way home to the farm 60km southwest of Harare on August 15, Mujuru stopped at a local hotel bar and drank at least two double whiskies, hotel patron Tongai Chimuka told presiding magistrate Walter Chikwanha. Widely known as a heavy drinker, the general was "in a jovial mood and was not drunk," Chimuka said.

More than 40 witnesses have been summoned to testify at the hearing expected to last at least a week and rule later on whether Mujuru's death was accidental.

Burnt beyond recognition

Forensic investigations have found no evidence that explosives or inflammable liquids were used in the house-fire death of a powerful general whose family believes he may have been murdered, Zimbabwean state attorneys said.

Mujuru, the husband of Vice President Joice Mujuru, was burned beyond recognition in a bedroom fire at his farmhouse outside Harare last year.

For the first time at a state funeral, the general's coffin was sealed and mourners could not participate in the traditional viewing of the remains.

Mujuru's death intensified infighting in the party of President Robert Mugabe, where the general was a powerful figure who used his military, political and business connections to promote his wife's battle for supremacy.

Joice Mujuru attended the opening of the inquest dressed in black. She has hired private attorneys to question witnesses called by the state and to examine forensic reports. Soon after Mujuru's death at age 66, she told mourners she could not understand why the former army commander and veteran guerrilla leader did not escape from the fire which left parts of the house and some furniture intact.

The farmhouse of brick and stone has a fire-resistant roof and large windows and exit doors.

Read more on:    joice mujuru  |  robert mugabe  |  solomon mujuru  |  zimbabwe  |  southern africa

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