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Exhumation ruling today

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Harare regional magistrate Walter Chikwanha will today rule on an application to exhume the remains of Zimbabwes most decorated army commander, the late Retired General Solomon Mujuru, who was interred at the National Heroes Acre last August.

The Generals family made an application last Friday, through their lawyer, Thakor Kewada, arguing the local forensic pathologist, Gabriel Alvero Gonzalez, failed to carry out a proper autopsy on the late Mujurus charred remains in accordance with internationally-recognised procedures.

This was after his widow Vice-President Joice Mujurus private forensic pathologist, Reggie Perumal from South Africa, advised the family lawyer the post-mortem was unprofessionally and improperly carried out.

Kewada told the court there were unanswered questions on how Mujurus remains were identified as well as the establishment of the cause of death at his Alamein Farm on August 16.

Meanwhile, Vice-President Mujurus inquest statement is expected to be submitted before the court today.

The VPs statement is very factual. It simply sets up the facts as she will just tell the court she received a call, went to the farm where she saw the fire and there is no need for her to take to the witness stand, said Kewada.

I prepared her statement which she signed and there is nothing magical about it.

She cannot take to the witness stand because we want to avoid a situation of evoking her memories, she could become emotional and that is not want we want, Kewada said while addressing journalists after Fridays hearing.

During the hearing last week, Kewada asked Gonzalez if he had carried out an X-ray on the Generals charred remains and if he had also examined the skeletal structures, brains and teeth, to which he replied in the negative.

Kewada told the inquest examination of the brains was very critical since the case did not exclude a traumatic death.

He said although indications were that the General was alive at the time of the fire, no tests were conducted to determine the level of carbon monoxide he might have possibly inhaled.

I am advised by my expert (Perumal) that if you had dissected the parts and separated the muscle tissues from the bones, you would have been able to identify gunshot or stab wounds or use of blunt force, but because you did not do so, your examination was done unprofessionally, he said. In response, Gonzalez simply said: We considered the examination was done appropriately.

After being asked what tools he used for the autopsy, Gonzalez said he did not have enough equipment since the examination was carried out at 1 Commando Barracks.

Gonzalez told the court he had to make do with a pair of pliers, scissors and blades since those were the only tools necessary at that point.

Kewada further submitted there were areas which Gonzalez might have watered down as a result of his limited knowledge of the English language hence his post-mortem report was not thorough. Earlier, Gonzalez told the court he prepared his report in Spanish and later translated it into English with the assistance of his Cuban counterparts.

However, after being asked to produce the original Spanish report, the pathologist said he destroyed it soon after the translations.

Coming to the issue of the charred body, Kewada told Gonzalez it was inconceivable for the late Generals stomach to have been burnt to an extent of destroying all the internal organs considering the body was lying facing down on a carpet which was not consumed by the inferno.

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