Zimbabwe's General Solomon Mujuru dies in fire

The husband of Zimbabwe's vice-president and a key figure within Zanu-PF's succession race has died under mysterious circumstances, reports say.

Zimbabwean media have reported that General Solomon Mujuru died in a fire on his farm in Beatrice, Zimbabwe, on Monday evening.

Mujuru (63) is the husband of Zimbabwe Vice-President Joice Mujuru and is the country’s most decorated post-independence army general.

The Zimbabwe Mail reported the incident led to rapid speculation that his death was politically motivated—with his wife purported to be the target.

There has been no confirmation whether a case of arson would be opened.

The news comes at a politically sensitive time for Zimbabwe—particularly for the Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu-PF)—as the country grapples with a timeline for its next general election.

Since 2008 Zimbabwe has been operating under a power sharing agreement between President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) following a disputed election in the same year.

Factions within Zanu-PF are grappling with a decision on when to push for the next general election, with Mugabe eyeing an election at the end of 2011.

Mujuru was allegedly at the helm of a bloc within the party who felt calling elections too early would lead to political upheaval and reverse the gains made during the shaky government’s tenure.

The general led the Zimbabwean military from independence in 1980 until retiring from government service in 1995 and was seen as a key figure within Zanu-PF and a close ally to Mugabe.

Also known as Rex Nhongo during the war for independence in the 1970s, Mujuru was purported to have owned between six and 16 farms, including Alamein farm, a productive and high-value operation requisitioned as part of a landgrab from Guy Watson-Smith in 2001, which the Zimbabwe High Court and international courts found to be illegal.

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