/ 29 March 2012

Zim general’s death cleared of foul play

An inquest has ruled there was no foul play in the fiery death of a top power broker in Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s party, state media reported on Thursday, quoting the attorney general as saying the case shrouded in suspicion is now closed.

Former army commander General Solomon Mujuru (66) husband of the nation’s vice-president, was burned beyond recognition in a fire at his farmhouse south of Harare last year.

The Herald newspaper, controlled by Mugabe loyalists, reported on Thursday that Attorney General Johannes Tomana had given the daily the findings of a month-long inquest that ended in February.

The paper quotes Tomana as saying the findings are “well-reasoned and sound” and declaring the case closed.

Mujuru’s family had insisted on the inquest amid speculation the general had been murdered by political rivals.

The inquest hearings had been closely followed in Zimbabwe. Vice-President Joice Mujuru attended several sessions, listening to testimony from pathologists, police officers and other witnesses.

Senior South African pathologists said samples of the remains and ashes from the house tested in South Africa were not properly handled and could have been compromised. They showed no sign that explosives or flammable liquids were used to ignite it and create the intense heat that virtually cremated Mujuru, the pathologists said. Other witnesses had said they saw what struck them as strangely coloured flames rising from the general’s remains.

A maid at the farm and a private security guard said they heard gun shots two hours before flames were seen.

The response by fire fighters was described as ineffective. Fire department officials told the court the water tanks of all its trucks leaked. Emergency services have suffered severe shortages of equipment and spare parts in the nation’s decade-long economic crisis.

Police in a VIP protection unit guarding the farm said their radio was broken, they had no airtime in their cell phones and the nearby police station had no vehicle to reach the scene. — Sapa-AP