Mujuru blaze remains a mystery

Investigators could not find out what caused the fire that killed former Zimbabwean army chief Solomon Mujuru last year, a forensic expert said on Monday.

“The cause of the fire could not be determined,” Bothwell Mutandiro, director of the police forensic section, told an inquest into the death of Mujuru in a mysterious inferno in August last year.

“No accelerants or explosives” were found near the scene of Mujuru’s death, according to Mutandiro.

The former army chief was widely seen as a kingmaker in Mugabe’s party and was respected across Zimbabwe’s political divide.

His death was followed by speculation that the influential politician was killed by somebody within his party, and that his death in the fire was not accidental.

Magistrate Walter Chikwanha on Monday postponed ruling on a Mujuru family request for an independent pathologist from South Africa to testify.

“I will not grant or dismiss the application but the local pathologist should come and testify first and we hear what he says,” Chikwanha said.

“If he testifies then we will consider the request by the family lawyer to bring a South African pathologist, but the family lawyer should justify why it is necessary to have him come and testify.”

Also known by his war name Rex Nhongo, Mujuru led Zimbabwe’s liberation forces during the 1970s bush war against the whites-only Rhodesian government.

After independence in 1980, he became the army chief. Until his death at age 62, he remained an influential member of the ruling ZANU-PF amid internal rivalries and tensions after violent and inconclusive presidential elections in 2008.

He was respected as one of the few people able to speak frankly to President Robert Mugabe about ending political violence against Mugabe’s opponents.

Lawmakers, including his wife Vice-President Joice Mujuru, have queried how he could have failed to escape from the burning house through various low-level windows.—AFP

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