AN inquest will be held to determine the circumstances under which the former State Procurement Board (SPB) executive chairman Charles Kuwaza died, as suspicions that the career bureaucrat was killed mafia-style continue to mount.
By Owen Gagare/Elias Mambo
Police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba confirmed an inquest will be held although she said she did not know the exact date.
“It’s normal for an inquest to be held when a person dies under unclear circumstances. But as of now I don’t have full details as to where and when it will be held,” said Charamba.
Kuwaza died on April 18 after plunging nine floors from his Club Chambers offices in Harare. The initial narrative was that he committed suicide by jumping to his death, but circumstantial evidence and the state of his office pointed to a strong possibility of a cold-blooded murder as revealed by the Zimbabwe Independent.
The fact that an inquest will be held suggests that investigating officers are not treating Kuwaza’s sudden death case as a straightforward suicide.
An inquest is a judicial inquiry to determine the cause of a person’s death. A legal inquiry is held when the cause of death is unknown, violent or unnatural.
It is held in public and witnesses are called in to give evidence. Witnesses can also be examined.
These include investigating officers and police officers who attended the scene who, according to the Inquest Act Chapter 7:07, are supposed to “take careful note of all appearances, marks and traces presented by it (the body) and about it which tend to show whether the deceased did or did not come by his death from violence, and if from violence, whether the same was used by himself or some other, and if by some other, who such other was or how he may be discovered”.
Kuwaza died on Independence Day after visiting his office with his wife who, however, remained in the car — with its engine running — as he only wanted to collect documents to bolster his defence in a case where he was facing five counts of corruption involving over US$1 million and ZW$2,5 billion. He was freed on bail on March 24 and was due to appear in court on May 18. Investigations indicate he could have been attacked by unknown assailants who raided his office before pushing him out of the window either unconscious or already dead. Numerous eyewitnesses say Kuwaza — who was known to be scared of heights — did not scream during his fall.
Sources close to the investigation said it was inconceivable someone could jump or plunge nine floors down silently, whether they took the action voluntarily or not, when still alive
Several other issues also raised suspicion of foul play, not least the discovery of traces of blood on Kuwaza’s office chair and the walls.
There was also some oil-like substance which appeared to have been used to remove the blood stains. Those who went to the office shortly after he fell found evidence of things in disarray, suggesting a scuffle in the office.
Although he was in the office for close to 40 minutes, there was no suicide note.
A government forensic pathologist was summoned to take swabs in the office, including fingerprints, after it became apparent that the possibility of foul play was high.
A post-mortem was conducted at Parirenyatwa Hospital before his burial, but the results have not been made public.
Kuwaza was scheduled to meet President Robert Mugabe on Wednesday last week where he reportedly wanted to reveal the goings-on at the tender board, as well as his dispute with senior bureaucrats in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC). He was locked in a bitter legal wrangle with the OPC and the SPB over the ownership of cars and an upmarket house in Borrowdale where he was staying. He was sacked from the SPB, which falls under the OPC, in December 2015 before being denied an exit package. Investigations show that during his tenure as SPB boss, he could have stepped on the toes of senior government officials and military chiefs over money-spinning deals which he blocked.