Retired army General Solomon Mujuru died a gruesome death in a house fire early this morning.
NewsDay witnessed police removing his charred remains from the dining room of the gutted 18-roomed house at Alamein Farm in Beatrice, south of Harare, in a heart-rending moment.
His body was found close to the door, meaning that he could have been fighting to get out. Police put what remained of his body into a plastic bag.
The late General’s wife Vice President Joice Mujuru, could only say: “Zvakaoma mwanangu zvaiitika pano.
Zviri mumba umu hazvitarisiki. Mwari ega ndivo vanoziva (What has happened here is difficult to fathom. What is in there is unbelievable. Only God Knows).”
While police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena was unavailable for comment, his subordinate Oliver Mandipaka declined to comment.
But a source at the scene said the fire was so intense that it could only have been caused by either fuel or an electrical fault. The source added serious foul play was suspected.
A maid at the farm, Rosemary Shoti, said Mujuru arrived at the farm around 8pm last night and asked for kitchen keys which she gave him.
“We were awakened at around 3am by the sound of exploding asbestos sheets and I came out to investigate only to find the house engulfed in fire.
“We tried to put it out using buckets of water from a bowser together with his security personnel, but to no avail. After failing to put out the fire we then phoned Beatrice Police Station and the Fire Brigade, but when they arrived, it was too late,” Shoti said.
State Security minister Sydney Sekeramayi, who was at the scene said: “It’s hard to believe but he is no more. It is a hard situation. We came here early in the morning initially thinking that he was badly burnt only to find his charred body.
“One of Zimbabwe’s greatest sons is no more.”
Information minister Webster Shamu said Zimbabwe had lost one of its illustrious sons, great fighter, military commander and strategist par excellence.
“To us Comrade Rex Nhongo’s name was synonymous with all the history of the liberation struggle.”
Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo said: “It’s a tragedy which has befallen us.”
Mujuru was among Zimbabwe’s most powerful, wealthiest and feared persons – in his own right and especially as a couple, with wife Vice-President Mujuru.
Mujuru was a former army chief, often seen as Zimbabwe’s “king-maker” in the Zanu PF power matrix.
Mujuru joined the Zimbabwe African People’s Revolutionary Army (Zipra) in the 1960s, before moving to the Zimbabwe National Liberation Army (Zanla) in 1971.
He became acting commander-in-chief of Zanla in 1975 and joint leader of Zimbabwe People’s Army (Zipa) – a united force of Zipra and Zanla in 1976.
In 1977, he was elected Deputy Secretary of Defence for (Zanu) and eventually became Zimbabwe National Army commander in 1981.
He was promoted to full general 1992, before leaving government service to venture into full-time politics.
His wife, Joice, is the first woman to hold such a high-ranking role in Zimbabwe of Vice President.
If Mujuru wanted to combine power with relative anonymity, he may have opted to back his wife for the top job – a scenario, which many people believe he was really pulling the strings.
Under his nom de guerre, Rex Nhongo, Mujuru was the Zanla acting commander-in-chief during the 1970s war of independence.
He is also said to have played a key role in President Robert Mugabe’s rise to the top of Zanu PF.