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Evidence in Zimbabwe General's Fire Death Was Mishandled, Says S.African Expert

  • Thomas Chiripasi

Seomyatseng Jack Maine of the South Africa Police Service said poor packaging of exhibits from Mujuru's Ruzambo Farm in Beatrice, where the former army commander was found burnt beyond recognition, may have compromised results of forensic tests

The inquest into the mysterious death of ZANU-PF kingmaker Solomon Mujuru last year continued Thursday with a South African forensic expert telling the court the handling of evidence at the scene of the farmhouse fire that killed the retired army chief fell far below professional standards.

Seomyatseng Jack Maine of the South Africa Police Service said poor packaging of exhibits from Mujuru's Ruzambo Farm in Beatrice, where the former army commander was found burnt beyond recognition last August, may have compromised the results of forensic tests.

Maine said he tested several items recovered from the scene and sent to South Africa by Zimbabwe police to see if any accelerants were used. He told the inquest that he had found no such evidence, but was cautious to say that did not conclusively mean none were used.

“There are a number of factors that could compromise quality of results," he said. "These include collection method of debris at the scene and also how it was packaged."

"The amount of heat is also critical in that if it is extreme, it could actually wipe out all traces of fire accelerants.”

The forensic expert said Zimbabwean police should have used oven bags instead of ordinary plastic bags to pack the debris collected from the farm or a metal box that was not corroded to secure the evidence before dispatching the material to Pretoria.

Responding to a question from family lawyer Thakor Kewada, Maine said the exposure of liquid to intense heat can affect analysis results, adding he would not have been able to detect any ignitable liquid if the evidence was collected from the wrong area.

This followed testimony by a Zimbabwe police forensic expert Birthwell Mutandiro that debris was not collected from the area close to where the deceased's body was found.

Mutandiro stunned the court Monday when he said that no collections were made at this point "for obvious reasons" that forensic scientists were concerned with areas that had high fire concentration.

Another South African expert, Lieutenant Colonel Kgotlakgomang Lenong testified that he did not detect any explosives from his analysis.

Another South African expert, Dzunisani Porcia Chauke, who did the DNA test of blood samples collected from Mujuru's daughter, Kumbirai, and the deceased's tissues, said the probability that Mujuru was Kumbirai's biological father was 99.90 percent.

Meanwhile, the South African pathologist hired by the Mujuru family, Reggie Perumel, fielded questions to witnesses through the family lawyer as the judge has not yet permitted him to give expert testimony. He can only do so after the local pathologist who carried out the post-mortem has testified.

Magistrate Walter Chikwanha adjourned the inquest to Friday when local pathologist Gabriel Alvero is set to testify.

Among those in court were Vice President Joice Mujuru and former Finance Minister Chris Kuruneri.

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