ONE year after the mysterious death of former army commander General Solomon Mujuru, his family remains determined to push for the exhumation of his body for investigations by an independent pathologist.
An inquest presided over by Harare Regional Magistrate Walter Chikwanha failed to determine the source of the fire, claiming Mujuru had died of asphyxiation.
While in the minds of some this ruled out foul play — which seemed to be the likely possibility given the suspicious circumstances of his death — to others, mainly the family, the inquest findings only helped to deepen the mystery.
The Mujuru family still wants answers to many questions which point to criminal action and believe an investigation by an independent pathologist would put the matter to rest.
Family lawyer Thakor Kewada told the Zimbabwe Independent in an interview on Wednesday that they would not give up on efforts to have General Mujuru — the country’s most decorated general — exhumed from Heroes’ Acre.
“We are going ahead with plans to have Mujuru exhumed. We are seriously working on it and we hope for a breakthrough soon,” he said.
Kewada said the Mujuru family, led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru, wants the remains of the late former army boss to be examined by an independent pathologist.
The Mujuru family was expected to mark the first anniversary of the death of Solomon at his Ruzambo farm (formerly Alamein farm) this weekend. But Kewada declined to discuss details of the memorial, saying only Vice-President Mujuru could comment on the issue.
“It’s now one year since General Mujuru died, but I can neither deny nor confirm the anniversary. The VP is the best person to comment,” said Kewada.
The late General Mujuru’s brother, Joel, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday but the Independent understands that the Mujurus are preparing for an anniversary at the farm where the decorated soldier was burnt to ashes on August 15 last year.
It is still uncertain what caused the fire which presumably killed General Mujuru and the family is far from satisfied by the outcome of a 13-day inquest.
At the weekend, the Mujuru family is expected to honour the veteran soldier by converting the damaged farmhouse into a museum or monument that would display the general’s liberation war and personal history.
This could coincide with the Harare City Council’s plans to rename Enterprise Road Solomon Mujuru Road in his memory and contribution to Zimbabwe before and after Independence. The Mujuru family plans to build a new house for his widow at the farm.
Mujuru died in the early hours of the night of August 15 last year in a fire at the farmhouse in Beatrice in circumstances that many commentators suggest were suspicious.
A maid and guard at the farm testified they heard gun shots two hours before flames were seen at his farmhouse. Mujuru left groceries and his cellphone in his car, something he had never done before. The general took 40 minutes to drive from the hotel to his farm, a journey of 10 minutes.
The lone policeman was asleep at the time, and after he awoke had no airtime and the radio was broken. The fire truck when it arrived had no water. The late General’s body was engulfed in a blue flame.
The coroner investigating Mujuru’s death concluded he had died of smoke inhalation, but the family does not believe the findings. They plan to petition for approval to exhume Mujuru’s remains and have them independently examined by a doctor of their own choice. Mujuru’s remains are interred at the Heroes’ Acre.
On the fateful day and hours before he died, Mujuru had stopped at the Beatrice Hotel, 60km southwest of Harare, drank some whisky and chatted with patrons. He was having an early night before a long journey the next day to River Ranch diamond mine in Beitbridge where there was a fierce dispute going on with his fellow shareholders.
The owners of River Ranch have filed for liquidation after negotiations with the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) and the Mujuru family to take over the mine failed.
Rani Investment, which owns the mine through Limpopo Mineral Resources, said ZMDC had not made an offer for its stake in the company. The company indicated last year that it was selling the diamond producer after failing to recapitalise the mine which could no longer sustain itself as a going concern.
Limpopo Mineral Resources, formerly River Ranch Limited, has now filed for a provisional order at the High Court requesting the winding up of its operations and the appointment of a provisional liquidator.