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Zimbabwe’s first female Vice President loses husband in ‘mysterious’ fire

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Summary of story from Voice of America, August 16, 2011

Retired Zimbabwean Army General Solomon Mujuru, husband of Vice President Joyce Mujuru, died early Tuesday in a fire at his farmhouse south of Harare, authorities said.

Just a few hours after the news of the death of her husband was revealed, it was also announced that Joice Mujuru would act as President of Zimbabwe whilst President Robert Mugabe is in Angola.

The death of Mujuru, 62, long seen wielding substantial power within the ruling ZANU-PF party has set off speculation as to the political repercussions.

The General was believed to be an important factor in his wife’s chances of succeeding Mr. Mugabe. Some say the death of the General will benefit the chances of Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa instead.

A senior commander in the 1970s struggle for black majority rule and commander of the army for nearly a decade after independence in 1980, Solomon Mujuru is said to have died around one am on Tuesday after his farmhouse in Beatrice district, caught fire under circumstances which remained unclear.

Farm clerk Stephen Arineyo and other farmworkers tried in vain to put out the fire which engulfed the structure.

ZANU-PF National Chairman Simon Khaya Moyo, who visited the farm early Tuesday, said the party was saddened by Mujuru’s death, which he described as mysterious. Moyo said Mujuru had been a force for cohesion within the party.

Provincial Chairman Ray Kaukonde said his committee urged the ZANU-PF politburo to declare Mujuru a national hero.

Mourners at Mujuru’s farm, refusing to speak on the record, said they suspected foul play. Some questioned why Mujuru was unable to escape the fire when the doors were unlocked. Sources said he was found near the door to his living room.

Others noted that there was a manned police post at his farmhouse. Eyewitnesses said the fire brigade took five hours to arrive and then was without water.

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said an investigation is under way with forensics experts seeking the cause of the blaze which engulfed the house. The body was taken to One Commando Barracks, in Cranborne, Harare for forensic tests.

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