The remains of the late national hero Retired General Solomon Mujuru, who died in a mysterious inferno two months ago, could be exhumed to establish the real cause of death, NewsDay has been told.
Mujuru, who died in a mysterious inferno, was declared a national hero and is buried at the National Heroes’ Acre.
Legal experts in Harare said this yesterday after Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri gave credence to earlier reports by NewsDay that the force, which has since referred the case to the courts, wanted an inquest.
An inquest is a judicial investigation in common law jurisdictions, conducted by a judicial officer or a government official.
The common kind of inquest includes a medical examination into the cause of a death that was sudden, violent or suspicious or occurred in prison.
According to reports from national broadcaster ZBC and published on its website, Chihuri said investigations were complete, but details could not be provided because the findings were now in the hands of the courts which had ordered an inquest.
In light of this, the legal experts said there was likelihood the courts could order the exhumation of Mujuru’s remains to establish the real cause of the death and bring the matter to finality. Other experts said the inquest could be an exercise in futility because the country did not seem to have the expertise to handle such a complicated issue.
The legal practitioners questioned whether the police were not already in breach of the Inquest Act because they did not report with “convenient speed” to a magistrate the mysterious death of the former army commander.
They referred to Section 5 of the Act which reads: “The police officer shall, without delay, report to a magistrate, in detail, the circumstances of the case, in order that the magistrate may take such further steps, if any, as may be needful, either to ascertain the cause of death or to bring to justice such person or persons as appear to have unlawfully caused such death.”
They said by referring the matter for an inquest, the police have all, but confirmed Mujuru died under suspicious circumstances.
The lawyers said as a general rule, courts could order exhumation under such circumstances. Asked to confirm whether it was possible for the remains to be disinterred, Harare-based lawyer Trust Maanda said:
“As a general rule, courts can have the power to order exhumation if they deem that to be necessary to arrive at the cause of death where the deceased died in violent or unnatural circumstances.
“The courts may order that in terms of the Inquest Act. My view is that it may also be ordered on application by any person who can show entitlement to that order.”
But another lawyer said: “I think the other thing is that it may be an exercise in futility to order the exhumation if we do not have the expertise in the country to deal with the issue.”
Another said the biggest worry was whether the results of the inquest would result in anybody being brought to book or not.
Ordinary Zimbabweans are agitating to know the real cause of Mujuru’s death, saying the continued delay was causing all sorts of speculations over how the former army commander died. Mujuru’s widow, Vice-President Joice Mujuru, has demanded a thorough probe, saying she was not satisfied with the manner in which her husband died.
The police are said to have probed witnesses including Mujuru’s farm workers, police officers and people who were with the decorated soldier hours before his death.
Insiders said statements from witnesses as well as the post-mortem report and other technical assessments had been handed over to the courts to determine whether there could have been foul play. They said if the judicial officer suspected foul play, an inquest could be instituted and vice-versa.