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16 Jan 2012 16:34
Zimbabwe on Monday opened an inquest into the death of former army chief Solomon Mujuru, who was killed last year in a mysterious inferno, in a case that has roiled President Robert Mugabe’s party.
He died in August in a mysterious fire at his farmhouse in Beatrice, south of Harare, deepening the divide within Mugabe’s Zanu-PF where the general’s wife, Vice-President Joice Mujuru leads a faction perceived as a more moderate wing of Zanu-PF.
The inquest began by looking into speculation that Mujuru failed to escape the blaze because he was drunk, with a string of witnesses testifying that he was sober.
A barmaid at a Beatrice motel, where Mujuru was a regular patron, said the former leader of Zimbabwe’s liberation fighters had stopped in on his way home but did not have a drink.
“He was not drunk,” bar maid Portia Kamvura told the packed court room. “He left around 7pm saying he did not want to drink much as he had a journey to make the following morning.”
A fellow farmer in the Beatrice farming area, Blessing Madzivire, said there had been a power outage on the day Mujuru died and that the general was sober when Madzivire last saw him.
No evidence of explosives
Mujuru and two of her daughters attended the hearing where 10 witnesses are expected to testify, as well as local police and independent forensic experts from neighbouring South Africa.
Prosecutors said findings by local experts showed that no inflammable substance was used to start the fire while South African forensic investigators said there was no evidence of explosives.
Mujuru, also known by his war name Rex Nhongo, was widely seen as a kingmaker in Mugabe’s party.
The circumstances of his death sparked speculation with some, including his wife, querying how he could have failed to escape through the farmhouse’s low-level windows.
Lawmakers including Mujuru’s widow have demanded an investigation into his death.
Mujuru was declared a national hero and his funeral was attended by around 40 000 people.—AFP
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