Zimbabwean Vice President Joice Mujuru has disclosed that she suspects foul play in the August 16 death of her husband, former army chief Solomon Mujuru, found dead after a fire at their farm in Beatrice, not far from Harare, the capital.
Mrs. Mujuru spoke as calls grew louder from former liberation war heroes and others for an independent investigation into the death of the former army chief.
Speculation mounted immediately after his death, which a top military official referred to as "mysterious," but Mrs. Mujuru had asked Zimbabweans to bide their time with such questions until he was laid to rest last weekend at Heroes Acre in Harare.
But during a condolence call to her Chisipite, Harare, home by members of the women’s national football team, Mrs. Mujuru said in comments taped by Zimbabwe state television that her husband could have easily escaped the blaze through his bedroom window.
Noting that his death “raised many eyebrows,” Mrs. Mujuru said it was very odd that a military man such as her husband should have been unable to escape the fire.
Mrs. Mujuru said her "heart will only rest" when a thorough investigation has made clear what took place between 8:30 p.m. on the evening of August 16, when General Mujuru arrived at the farm, and when the fire was spotted by farm staff after 1 a.m.
Police said an investigation continues - but many want an independent investigation.
War veteran Wilfred Mhanda said he is relieved Mrs. Mujuru along with others has now declared herself suspicious of the circumstances of her husband's death. He said he is surprised President Robert Mugabe has not ordered a special inquiry.
Noting reports that Mujuru's cell phone and groceries were still in his vehicle, Mhanda said "there must have been some people waiting for him inside the house and it’s likely he couldn’t get out and probably they then waited for time to lapse before they did whatever they did to the body. The fire was just to mask the evidence.”
Mhanda said Mujuru was the second most powerful politician within ZANU-PF and was the only one who could actually challenge President Mugabe during meetings of the party's politburo, as "others just didn’t have the courage to do it."
Mhanda said the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change and civil society saw Mujuru as a moderating influence within ZANU-PF who will be sorely missed.
Commenting on the many conspiracy theories in circulation, Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn party leader Simba Makoni said many people are puzzled by the manner of the general’s death, and called on the authorities to speed up the investigation.
Makoni similarly described Mujuru was a force for moderation, suggesting that his death could lead to an increase in political extremism in the country.
Zimbabwe African People’s Union president Dumiso Dabengwa express doubt that the Zimbabwe Republic Police would conduct a thorough investigation.
Pedzisai Ruhanya, programs director of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, said an independent inquiry is needed to avoid a cover-up in the case, perhaps an independent commission with a judicial inquiry led by an independent judge.
Finance Minister Tendai Biti, secretary general of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, told reporter Blessing Zulu that under Zimbabwean law the Mujuru family can demand an inquest headed by a magistrate.