HARARE – The family of a former Zimbabwean army general who was seen as a key player in the race to succeed President Robert Mugabe before dying in a fire last August suspects he was murdered and will seek to exhume his body, state-owned media said on Friday.
On Thursday, a court ruled out foul play in the death in a farmhouse blaze of Solomon Mujuru, popularly known by his guerrilla name Rex Nhongo.
Mujuru was married to Vice-President Joice Mujuru and headed a ruling party faction that wanted her to succeed Mugabe as party and state president. Media reported that he was pressing Mugabe to retire and that his faction had courted Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change party.
His death led to media speculation at the time that he had been killed in a political power play to help Mugabe, who has ruled the destitute state for more than 30 years, and his supporters in his ruling ZANU-PF.
“There is suspicion in the minds of my clients and relatives that somebody killed the general and ferried his body and put it in the house,” Mujuru’s family lawyer Thakor Kewada told the state-owned Herald newspaper.
Kewada said he would write to the home affairs ministers to seek exhumation of Mujuru’s body on behalf of the family.
“I cannot predict what the Minister of Home Affairs is going to say, but wisdom must prevail… He must know that the general public still has suspicions. He must authorise exhumation of the body so that the public will not say somebody is trying to hide something.”
The family’s view may widen rifts within ZANU-PF, which has been rocked by factional fights as officials position themselves to take over from the 88-year-old leader.
Kewada was not immediately available for comment.
Mujuru died on August 16 in a fire at his farmhouse in Beatrice, south of Harare.
His wife Joice said after his death she was puzzled that a retired soldier could not have just escaped when the fire started given the house had no bars on the windows and the doors were unlocked.
A fire expert told an inquest the fire may have been caused by arson or an electrical fault, although he could not be sure.
Attorney General Johannes Tomana said on Thursday he was instructing the police to close the Mujuru case.
Under Zimbabwe law, the attorney general is the only person who can authorise a fresh investigation after an inquest.
But Kewada said another law allowed the Mujuru family to seek the exhumation.
Rights activists and Western governments have accused Mugabe’s ZANU-PF of controlling the courts. Mugabe denies this.
Mujuru, who helped Mugabe consolidate power in the 1970s, was a backroom political player whose standing was raised when he persuaded Mugabe to back Joice as one of the party vice presidents at a 2004 ZANU-PF congress.