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Zimbabwe Cabinet Silent On General's Death; Police Investigation Criticized

Experts say it is now unlikely any investigation – independent or not – will uncover the real cause of General Solomon Mujuru’s death, especially as the police did not secure the charred house to protect potential evidence

Zimbabwean ministers said Thursday that there has been no formal Cabinet discussion of the death of retired General Solomon Mujuru despite statements by his widow, Vice President Joice Mujuru, saying she suspects foul play, and calls for an inquest.

Several ministers speaking on condition of anonymity told VOA reporter Violet Gonda that aside from the announcement of Mujuru’s death by President Robert Mugabe and condolence messages, the cabinet has not delved into the cause of the blaze August 16 blaze in which the retired General was initially believed to have perished.

The issue came up in the Cabinet this week only because Information Minister Webster Shamu of ZANU-PF protested comments by Finance Minister Tendai Biti, secretary general of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, accusing the former ruling party of having a hand in Mujuru’s death.

”The issue is really raw," said one minister speaking on condition of anonymity. "ZANU-PF is in such a crisis they don’t want to discuss it.”

Police have not yet released any findings of their investigation, but there is general skepticism that their probe will make clear what happened at the farm in Beatrice district outside Harare that the Mujurus obtained in the course of the land reform process.

Queried on the lack of discussion in the cabinet of the General’s death, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga confirmed that the issue has not been discussed, saying it is "sensitive," adding that it was early days for an inquest to be called.

Experts say it is unlikely any investigation – independent or not – will ever uncover the real cause of Mujuru’s death, noting that the fire-ravaged house and grounds were not immediately secured by the police, leaving little hope fresh evidence would be found.

“One would have expected something better would have been done in terms of gathering evidence at the very beginning," Matinenga said.

"One needs to preserve the scene in order to get as much evidence as possible. It appears people rushed in to disturb the scene without waiting for relevant specialists to see what was available and to eventually clear that scene," he said.

There are many conspiracy theories surrounding the death of the liberation war hero.

Some believe ZANU-PF internal factionalism could have led to the killing of the former army general. Others point to his business dealings and note that his trusted diamond dealer, Bothwell Hlahla, based in the eastern city of Mutare, died in a mysterious car crash a few days before the fire at Mujuru’s farmhouse.

Sources said it has been determined that Mujuru intended to drive to Polokwane, South Africa, on August 17 to resolve a dispute concerning diamonds.

This week Vice President Joice Mujuru spoke out for the first time since his death, telling a group of athletes offering their condolences that she suspected foul play.

Lawyer and political activist Lovemore Madhuku and Africa Confidential newsletter publisher Patrick Smith agreed the official investigation has been mishandled.

Madhuku said burying Solomon Mujuru in Heroes Acre, Harare, so soon after his death, before a thorough investigation had been completed, was a misstep.

Smith told reporter Sandra Nyaira the truth about his death may never be uncovered.