HomeLocal News‘Mujuru fire points to arson’

‘Mujuru fire points to arson’

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A fire expert yesterday said indications were that the fire from which charred remains of the late Retired Army General Solomon Mujuru were retrieved could have emanated from two sources, a phenomenon usually associated with cases of arson.

Harare Fire Brigade station officer Clever Mafoti, who attended the scene of the inferno, also told an inquest into the General’s death clues that could have led to ascertaining the source of the fire had been destroyed before they arrived.

Efforts by amateur firefighters to extinguish the fire had destroyed the evidence, he said.

Nonetheless, the fire expert said, there were two possible sources of fire inside the farmhouse where Mujuru perished.

Mafoti made the revelations as he was being examined by a representative from the Attorney-General’s Office, Clemence Chimbari.

“What happens is that when there is a fire, the source, would be intensely burnt and on this particular occasion — at first there was a particular point in the bedroom which we initially thought had been the starting point. However, as we proceeded into the dining room we realised it also had been severely burnt,” Mafoti said.

He said extensive damage caused by the fire was observed in the bedroom and the dining room.

“In the bedroom, the plaster on the walls had been damaged such that it was peeling off and there were also cracks in the walls. That is a sign the fire could have emanated from that point and could have been burning for a long time. The same signs were also visible in the main lounge near the fireplace,” he said.
Chimbari then asked Mafoti to explain to the court if it was possible the fire could have emanated from two sources. Mafoti replied:

“Yes, that is possible in cases involving arson whereby someone would have started the fire, especially if the arsonist could have been someone of unsound mind, or in a situation whereby there is short-circuiting in electrical appliances. Short-circuiting usually happens where sockets have been overloaded by connecting a number of electrical gadgets on one socket.”

The witness then gave a detailed description to the court of how fire spreads after being ignited.

“Suppose a fire breaks out in a room and rages without anyone noticing, the entire oxygen (supply) in that particular room gets used up. For example, in the event that there is a hole or an opening in the ceiling and there is dust in that ceiling, the dust will start expanding as a result of the heat emanating from the floor. At that point, there will be a pre-mixture of dust and air. The dust will then expand like gases and that would lead to a burst, which would cause the fire to leap from one end to the other and the fire spreads,” said Mafoti.

He said the magnitude of the damage to the late Mujuru’s house was 75%. Mafoti also told the court it took the Fire Brigade about one hour and twenty-one minutes to get to Alamein Farm after they received a phone call at 3.40am from Harare Central Police Station informing them of the fire.

He said there was no firefighting unit at Beatrice and the nearest would be the Harare station.

“During the day in question when fire broke out at the farm, amongst the fleet of vehicles we had, none of them could cover the distance from Harare to Beatrice without experiencing a breakdown.

“We also could not carry water from Harare to Beatrice in that vehicle because it only takes in 400 litres. Suffice to say, the vehicle had a leakage and for water to be transported to Beatrice, the volume would have dwindled.”

Mafoti said even up to now the vehicle in question had not been repaired. He said his office had ascertained there were water bowsers at the farm they could use to put out the fire.

Mafoti said they had also carried relevant equipment such as hose layers that could draw water from a dam one kilometre away from the farm.

“We would have laid the hoses for one kilometre in the event that we failed to get water from the bowsers.
We finally put out the fire and Beatrice Police Station officer-in-charge Simon Hove instructed us to make sure there was no possibility of the fire breaking out again, which we did,” said Mafoti.

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