Zimbabwean Finance Minister Tendai Biti has waded into the controversy surrounding the death last week of former army general Solomon Mujuru in a fire, suggesting in a weekend speech that ZANU-PF had a hand in his death.
Mujuru was burned beyond recognition in a fire at his farmhouse in Beatrice district, not far from Harare, triggering a deluge of conspiracy theories as to the cause of the blaze which one senior military official official described at the time as “mysterious.”
One theory holds Mujuru was killed by ZANU-PF rivals prior to the blaze, while another suggests enemies invaded his home and put it to the torch, burning him to death.
But no firm evidence for either theory has surfaced, other than remarks from the former owner of the farm saying the farmhouse was virtually fireproof.
Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena told state radio on Monday that the police are still investigating the incident. Mujuru led a ZANU-PF faction that supported his wife, Vice President Joice Mujuru, as a possible successor to President Robert Mugabe.
Biti, secretary general of the Movement for Democratic Change formation led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, told thousands of his party supporters Sunday in Mutare that Mujuru’s death had “ZANU-PF fingerprints” on it.
He told the rally that, “ZANU-PF will invest in violence, they will invest in arms. Now they have a new tactic of roasting people. That is the ZANU-PF we know, those are the ZANU-PF fingerprints. That's the ZANU-PF DNA.”
VOA was unable to reach Biti for clarification of his remarks.
The Tsvangirai MDC has spoken highly of Mujuru since his death, describing him as a true national hero and raising no objections to his designation as such by the ZANU-PF politburo last week, allowing his burial at Heroes Acre in Harare.
ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that Biti’s statements Sunday were irresponsible, and urged Zimbabweans to stop speculating and wait for a police report on Mujuru's death to be issued.
"Does he have proof that ZANU-PF is responsible?" asked Gumbo. "We understand though that, that is the tactic by the MDC to cause mayhem and conflict."
Zimbabwe African People’s Union spokesman Methuseli Moyo said the delay by the police in issuing preliminary findings is nurturing speculation in the case.
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 told VOA Studio 7 reporter Violet Gonda that Mujuru was a force for moderation and his death could lead to an increase in political extremism.
“What it means is that those extreme views that he used to moderate to temper and bring down will now have no moderating influence and it is therefore quite likely that recklessness will go unchecked whether it is in ZANU-PF or outside ZANU-PF," said Makoni, a former finance minister. "That is where we will feel his absence."