The family of the late Retired Army General Solomon Mujuru and their housemaid, Rosemary Shoti, yesterday broke down in tears in court as the maid gave a detailed account of how she reacted upon receiving news the farmhouse was engulfed in flames.
The inquest entered its third day yesterday as Shoti became the eleventh person to take to the witness stand to testify in the high-profile investigation into the unsolved death of Zimbabwe’s most decorated post-independence army general who died at his Alamein Farm, Beatrice, last August.
Shoti said when she received the news of the burning farmhouse, she looked into the direction of the house and saw huge flames lighting the horizon.
“I asked Obert Mark (a policeman on guard duty) if the general had escaped the inferno and he told me they had not been able to locate him,” said Shoti amid sobs and was joined in weeping by Mujuru’s brother Joel and his sister Elizabeth Marowa.
Earlier before the proceedings started, regional magistrate Walter Chikwanha, who is presiding over the inquest, expressed concern over the manner both the State and the defence were examining witnesses.
“The reason why you are here is to assist me on an inquiry without losing sight of Section 6 of the Inquest Rules and Inquest Act,” he said.
Section 6 of the Inquest Rules reads: “The proceedings and evidence at an inquest shall be directed solely to ascertaining (a) who the deceased was; (b) how, when and where the deceased came to his death.”
When the proceedings continued, Shoti gave evidence to the effect the candle that was in the late General’s bedroom on the day he died was just about seven centimetres long and was properly secured in a saucer.
The broken-down pieces of the saucer were produced in court as exhibit and Shoti positively identified them.
“These are the remains of the saucer, I can positively identify that it is the saucer where I had placed the candle in the late General’s bedroom,” said Shoti. “The candle had been used so it was almost a quarter long — approximately 7cm long.”
Shoti told the court the late General had a generator which he only switched on when there was no power, usually just to watch news, otherwise he would use candles which were always carefully placed in saucers.
His widow, Vice-President Joice Mujuru, also revealed during the inquest the vehicle of her late husband had been “suspiciously” parked on the day he died.
She said this after the court had allowed her to cross-examine the late General’s gardener, Albert Arufandika, who was one of the witnesses yesterday.
“There is a regular parking place where we used to park our vehicle and I would like to know whether the place where the General parked his vehicle on that fateful day was the regular place because from the evidence led so far, it seems the place where the vehicle was parked was not the regular place he used to park his car,” said VP Mujuru.
“He (Arufandika) is the gardener at the farm and I would like to find out from him how many times he saw the late General parking his vehicle in the manner he did the day he died because the General is said not to have had the keys to the door where his vehicle was subsequently found and that is why he had gone to fetch the kitchen keys from Rosemary.”
Arufandika said he found Gen Mujuru’s vehicle parked at the back of the house and when he got to the scene he found three people pushing the vehicle some metres away from the house and the late General’s cellphone was continuously ringing.
“We heard the General’s cellphone ringing in the car and one person (identified as Tawanda) suggested I answer the phone. When I answered, I spoke to VP Mujuru and she asked where the late General was.
We told her we had not yet located the late General and she instructed that we should try to locate where he was,” he said.
The late General’s sister, Marowa, also queried why Arufandika and his colleagues had to wait for VP Mujuru to instruct them to look for the General instead of taking action instantly.
Arufandika and another witness, a farm worker, Petros Jaison, said they had done so.
Jaison and Arufandika told the court the late General’s charred remains were eventually found in a room next to the door which leads outside and they were still smouldering.
Water was then poured on the smouldering remains, they said.