Mujuru security lax — policeman

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Security provided by the police at Alamein Farm in Beatrice where Zimbabwe’s most decorated army general, Retired General Solomon Mujuru, met his death was so lax it was easy for intruders to get into the farm yard without being noticed, the inquest into the death heard yesterday.

This came out during the cross examination of Constable Obert Mark, one of the three policemen who were manning the farmhouse on the fateful day. The inquest is presided by regional magistrate Walter Chikwanha.

Mark, who appeared scared and jittery during cross-examination, was constantly asked by the magistrate to speak up as his voice was very low. He told the court it was not possible for the guarding police to see what was happening at the south gate entrance of the farm.

He was being cross-examined by Joel Mujuru, an elder brother of the late commander.

“How strong is your security and can you say that it is reliable at the south gate entrance?” Joel Mujuru asked.

He continued: “As the police guarding the place would you say people could easily gain entrance through the south gate and if you were to notice that there were people — for example — seven people on Mujuru’s vehicle, how would you have possibly communicated with the guard at the south gate entrance and did you inform your superiors that your communication system had broken down?”

Mark replied: “I would say the security was not adequate. There was no form of communication between the south gate and the guardroom. Our superiors were very cognisant of the fact that our communication systems had broken down, but they never did anything about that aspect.”

Mujuru family lawyer Thakor Kewada of Scanlen and Holderness said the three policemen manning the Mujuru residence were negligent because if they had patrolled the premises at regular intervals they could have discovered the fire before it got intense.

“Was it that you and your colleagues were grossly negligent when carrying out your duties? Where were you at 11 o’clock, the time when other witnesses said the fire broke out?” Kewada asked.

Mark said they rushed to the scene of the fire as soon as they noticed flames and smoke emerging from the farmhouse.

“Constable Handikatari and I were not on duty at that particular time. At 11 o’clock I was at the cottage taking a rest. I was asleep” said Mark.

Kewada further questioned why Mark and his colleagues opted to break a window situated far away from the source of the fire when they could have tried to gain entry through other entrances closer to the fire to rescue Mujuru.

Mark said it was impossible to force entry near the source of the fire as it had intensified and there was too much smoke.

Under cross-examination by one of Mujuru’s nephews, Tendai Mundawarara, who sought clarification on whether the policemen shouted Mujuru’s name or heard screams from inside the house, Mark said they heard nothing and only saw Mujuru’s charred remains the following morning.

Mark also claimed Mujuru was drunk on the fateful day, basing his assessment of the General’s state on his eyes which he said were “bloodshot” and also on the fact that the General stammered as he spoke.