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Zimbabwe: Conflicting Testimonies Emerge At Key Inquest

SW Radio Africa (London)

Tererai Karimakwenda

20 January 2012

The ongoing inquest into the suspicious death of General Solomon Mujuru has this week revealed several inconsistencies in the testimony from witnesses.

A disturbing portrait of the late general and his relationship with his wife and security staff has also emerged.

The Mujuru inquest started Monday and continued all week at the Harare Magistrates’ Court. Testimony from at least 40 witnesses is expected to be heard by the time it is concluded.

Mujuru died in late August last year in a fire that engulfed his farmhouse in Beatrice, just outside Harare. His family and ZANU PF youth raised suspicions about the fire and called for investigations. It is widely speculated that political rivalries within the party led to the General’s sudden death.

Testimonies given by police, security guards and workers on Mujuru’s farm has so far been contradictory, particularly certain issues including the candle found in his bedroom, the ‘odd’ place where he parked his car and whether the General was alone or with someone when he returned from a local bar.

Contradictory statements were also made regarding gunshots that were allegedly heard that night and whether General Mujuru was drunk or sober.

Rosemary Short, a maid who worked on the farm, testified that she left no matches to light the candle in Mujuru’s bedroom that night, as she did not expect him to return to the farm. This has put doubt to theories that the candle started the fire.

A security guard’s claim that a faulty geyser was to blame is being questioned as well, after another witness said there was no electricity at the farm that night. The retired general’s car was also parked in an unusual place, adding to suspicions that foul play may have been involved.

Political analyst Professor John Makumbe told SW Radio Africa that what struck him most from the testimonies was the fact that Mujuru and his wife, Vice President Joice Mujuru, were clearly estranged and living apart.

“This is also one case in which ZANU PF has not accused the MDC. There was no mention of MDC whatsoever. So foul play is clearly coming out to be an inside job within ZANU PF,” Makumbe explained.

Proceedings were temporarily halted on Tuesday after Mujuru’s widow complained that she had not been given access to a report by police who investigated the incident, which could have helped her to prepare questions for the witnesses.

The inquest continues next week.

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