The housemaid of the late Retired Army General Solomon Mujuru, Rosemary Shoti, yesterday became the second witness during the inquest into his death to reveal she heard sounds akin to gunshots in the dead of night before she was awakened only to be told the main house at the farm was up in flames.
Shoti told the court during the fourth day of the inquest that although this startled her, she initially thought it was normal as the policemen guarding Alamein Farm in Beatrice last August, where Mujuru died in an inferno, sometimes used to fire their guns in the air, apparently to warn and scare off intruders.
The housemaid made the revelations under examination by Mujurus nephew, Tendai Mundawarara, who had asked her to tell the court if she heard gunshots or unusual noises on the day Mujuru died.
There was a time that I used to hear gunshots and I would go to enquire from the police on duty what these were all about, and they would explain that they were merely frightening people so they would be aware there was security at the farm, Shoti said.
On the evening of August 15, the day the General died, I thought I heard two gunshots, but when I later asked the policeman, Obert Mark, who came knocking at my door to tell me the house was burning, he explained the noise I had heard was that of bursting burning asbestos sheets.
Shoti further told the court sometime last year, she heard gunfire at the farm and upon enquiring, the policemen told her they were merely shooting snakes.
I heard the sound during the time I was still in bed, but I did not check to find out what time it was.
I thought it was normal as the police had said they sometimes did it to scare people or kill snakes. My house is two kilometres away from the farmhouse and at that point in time I was confused, said Shoti.
While continuing with her evidence, Shoti also told the court the Generals car keys were never recovered. She said when she got to where the car was parked after the incident, she realised it was not locked and inside there were groceries.
After being asked if it was normal for the General to forget items in his car, Shoti said: He always had his medication in the car, but never at any stage did he forget to take it out of his car.
Even when he brought groceries home he would never ever leave them in his car, what happened on this day was very unusual.
Another security guard at the farm, Samuel Lewis, who was the 12th witness to testify, indicated to the police in his statement that he also heard what sounded like gunshots on the fateful day.
However, during the enquiry, Lewis changed the statement and denied hearing gunshot sounds, saying he simply heard something bursting in the direction of the Generals house.
During Shotis examination by Mujuru family lawyer Thakor Kewada of Scanlen and Holderness, it also emerged keys to the bedroom door were found in the late Generals bedroom and yet before he died he had driven to Shotis place to get keys reportedly saying he had forgotten his own set in Harare.
The General came to collect keys from me, but declined to take the whole bunch including the two keys to the main bedroom. He only asked for the kitchen door keys. Three bunches of keys were later found in his bedroom which I had locked, Shoti told the court.
There was one key missing from the Generals bunch of keys. These keys were shown to me by police officers at a later stage.
According to Kewada, the keys were ordinary ones similar to a lot of keys and duplicates could easily be purchased from any locksmith.
Shoti also said from her assessment on the day the late Mujuru came to collect the kitchen keys from her, he might have had a few drinks, but looked sober and in control of his faculties.
During the hearing, regional magistrate Walter Chikwanha ordered experts to be consulted and an affidavit produced to ascertain if the list of livestock medicines and cleaning liquids Shoti said were in the house on the day of the fire, were flammable.
Two other witnesses, a security guard, Ernest Nyamanja, and a shopkeeper, Apronia Chitashu, also took to the stand.
Lewis, who told the court he could neither read nor write, at one point left the court in stitches when he said as soon as he heard the sound of asbestos bursting, he ran a distance of over 300 metres in half a minute.
A total of 28 witnesses are yet to be examined by Attorney-Generals representatives Sharon Fero and Clemence Chimbari as the inquiry continues today.