Mujuru death 'no accident'

21 August 2011 - 02:51 By JAMA MAJOLA

The former owner of the farmhouse in which retired Zimbabwean Army commander General Solomon Mujuru died in a fire has questioned how the celebrated liberation fighter could not have escaped from the property "that had more doors and windows than holes in a colander".

The death of Mujuru - buried yesterday at Heroes Acre in Harare - sent a wave of shock, grief and anger over the nation. Most people believe he was murdered because of the suspicious events and circumstances surrounding his death on Tuesday at his Almein Farm in Beatrice, 60km south of Harare.

Since he was burnt beyond recognition, Mujuru's identity had to be verified through forensic tests, mainly dental records.

Fears abound that Zanu-PF, already in turmoil due to President Robert Mugabe's simmering succession crisis, could be engulfed by political disputes, intimidation and violence.

Guy Watson-Smith, the former owner of the farmhouse, said he wondered whether the truth about Mujuru's death would ever come out. "Our house was a sprawling single-storey building, roofed entirely with asbestos sheeting. That makes it absolutely fire-proof, and the walls were brick and cement. All that could have burnt was roofing timbers and ceilings. To imagine the fire spreading quickly without help is hard to do.

"There were more doors and windows than holes in a colander. Our main bedroom alone had three doors out of it and four double windows. How do you get trapped inside that?"

Zanu-PF - characterised by kidnappings, mass trials and executions in the wake of political coups and counter-coups - has a long history of chicanery

The risk of chaos in the party is worsened now by the fact that Mugabe is old and ailing ahead of critical elections. His hold on the party has become tenuous.

Many are refusing to accept that Mujuru, an experienced bush combatant in the liberation war , could have died in the way he did .

He was partly responsible for Mugabe's rise to power after helping him survive internal plots to oust him. He also helped his wife Joice become vice-president, aided many political allies to become ministers, and business executives make a fortune .

Many of Mujuru 's relatives and friends, and even senior Zanu-PF officials, have said they thought he had been killed .

Close friend and war hero Dumiso Dabengwa has openly said he hoped there was "no foul play" involved . He added if there had been , it would "complicate" an already complex and hazardous local political situation.

Mourners at Mujuru's Chisipite house this week spoke of "murder" in hushed tones. And even the Zanu-PF rank and file have been singing and chanting "murder", showing they do not think the death was an accident.

Sensing danger over the issue, the decision-making Zanu-PF politburo on Wednesday banned all party members from commenting on the issue, except spokesman Rugare Gumbo.

Joice Mujuru also appealed for calm. Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Constantine Chiwenga implored people to avoid violence.

This, however, did not stop political and civic groups, including the vocal National Constitutional Assembly, from demanding a "full, thorough and independent" investigation into Mujuru's death.

Police said they had launched a "full-scale" probe, though it seems they want the nation to think a candle caused the blaze.

Workers at the farm and other witnesses dismiss this as "idle speculation", as various reports clearly show Mujuru could have escaped the fire .