The responsibility for Mujuru’s demise lies directly at the door of the president himself. “Mujuru was the last remaining person within Zanu-PF who was able to speak out against Mugabe during politburo meetings,” one told Zimbabwe Today. “His death, whether an accident or an assassination ordered from the very top, benefits Mugabe more than any other individual.” The Retired-General was a powerful figure who used his military, political and business connections to promote his wife’s battle for supremacy.
He was one of Zimbabwe’ s most revered independence warriors, a multi-starred general who guided Robert Mugabe to power 31 years ago. He was also one of the few men bold enough to challenge him.
And so when Solomon Mujuru, a senior MP in Mr Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party, died in a fire at his rural farm near Harare, few people were surprised. The police account of the fire that killed Mr Mujuru on August 15 states the blaze was started by a candle, lit by household staff following a power cut. But ever since, rumours about the circumstances in which he was found have circulated, with many struggling to believe that an experienced bush combatant in the liberation war chould have been vanquished by a domestic mishap.
Mr Mujuru, 62, who was the first commander of the Zimbabwean army following independence in 1980, was a stalwart of Zanu-PF.
His wife, Joyce, currently serves as the party’s vice-president and was considered at the time, a favourite to take over the party one day, albeit with her husband as the power behind the throne.
However, the faction that the couple led within the movement was considered moderate – especially when it came to doing business with Mr Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change party.
As such, Mr Mujuru posed a direct threat to Zanu PF’s hardline wing, who see Mr Tsvangirai and his followers as Western stooges bent on bringing British colonial rule.
Few Hours before the death
What is known is that earlier that evening, Mr Mujuru, a lover of Johnnie Walker Black Label whisky, had enjoyed a few tots with friends in a nearby hotel. But he broke his usual habit of overindulging because he was due to be up early. On his way home to the farm 60 kilometers (35 miles) southwest of Harare on Aug. 15, Mujuru stopped at a local hotel bar and drank at least two double whiskies, hotel patron Tongai Chimuka told presiding magistrate Walter Chikwanha in a court hearing . Widely known as a heavy drinker, the general was “in a jovial mood and was not drunk,” Chimuka said.
A security guard at the property, Clement Runhare, said he heard what sounded like gunfire two hours before he was alerted that a fire had broken out. He said he thought poachers nearby were responsible. However, Wilfred Mhanda, a fellow liberation army commander, told us that he was attacked the moment he entered the house. “There were some people waiting for him inside the house,” he said. “The fire was just to mask the evidence. There were three bullet holes on his skull. No matter the intensity of a fire, it cannot burn the skull”
It was not until 3am that the emergency services were called, and when a fire engine arrived an hour later, it had no water to douse the flames. By that time, a pile of ash and bones was all that remained of the General’s massive frame
Accelerated burning of the body
The General was murdered and his body then doused with gasoline. Even pathologists argue that his body is unlikely to have been reduced to ashes without the help of an accelerant.
The farm’s white former owner, Guy Watson-Smith, who was forced to leave by Mr Mujuru’s men during Zimbabwe’s violent land seizure programme a decade ago, remarked: “Our house was a single storey building, roofed entirely with asbestos sheeting, and with walls of brick and cement. All that could have burned was roofing timbers and ceilings, and to imagine the fire spreading quickly without help is hard to do.“
No Body Viewing
For the first time at a state funeral, the general’s coffin was sealed and mourners could not participate in the traditional viewing of the remains.
2007: Mujuru Told Mugabe to Resign
In a summary of discussions with Butau, General Mujuru’s aide following a meeting held in May 2007, US Ambassador Christopher Dell wrote: “David Butau, Zanu PF MP and member of the faction allied to ex-military commander Solomon Mujuru, (told us) on May 31 that Mujuru had determined that the time to unseat President Robert Mugabe was now.
“Mujuru had flexed his muscle and wrested control of the party structures in Masvingo and Bulawayo, and his subordinates had begun to chip away at Mugabe’s key backers.
Mudariki told Dell’s successor, Ambassador James McGee, that Mujuru’s efforts culminated in a meeting with Mugabe on March 30, 2008, where the General was however outwitted by the veteran Zanu PF leader.
Wrote McGee: “(Mudariki) reports that Mujuru, in a meeting March 10 with President Robert Mugabe, urged Mugabe to step down, Mugabe declined, subsequently telling the press that Mujuru supported him and not presidential candidate Simba Makoni.
Supported Simba Makoni
After failing to stop Mugabe’s nomination as Zanu PF’s Presidential candidate at the December 2007 congress, the conspirators apparently initiated Makoni’s bid while maintaining pressure within the party.
“Mujuru is now attempting to rally Zanu PF politburo members to put additional pressure on Mugabe at a scheduled Wednesday politburo meeting to resign. Mujuru continues to actively support Makoni, although he has not come out publicly.”
Mujuru’s involvement in Makoni’s Mavambo/Kusile project was also confirmed by Dumiso Dabengwa, one of the few prominent Zanu PF officials to leave the party ahead of the key 2008 elections.
McGee adds: “Dabengwa averred that Makoni had substantial support in the country, even though high-profile leaders had, for personal reasons, chosen not to publicly express their support.
“He commented that General Solomon Mujuru also was one of the initiators of Makoni’s candidacy; Mujuru was still solidly behind Makoni, but Dabengwa was unsure when and if he would make his support public.”
Butau said Mujuru’s bid to get rid of Mugabe was driven by increasing alarm at the impact the country’s economic collapse was having on his vast business empire.
“The Mujurus believe Zanu PF cannot solve the economic mess and they need a regularisation of the business environment so that they can continue to conduct their many businesses,” Mudariki allegedly told Ambassador McGee at another meeting in October 2010.
The General had complained bitterly about the impact of Western sanctions on his business activities in a rare meeting with Ambassador Dell in 2006.
“Demonstrating that even he was hurt by the financial sanctions, Mujuru complained bitterly about a US$7 million line of credit he had arranged which had been frozen by OFAC,” Dell said.
You need no political analyst to see that the already weakened by her husband’s death, VP Mujuru now risks being totally dumped by Mugabe who bristles at any challenge to his rule.