Zanu-PF succession battle heats up as Zimbabwe’s top general dies in blaze

By Simon Allison 17 August 2011

General Solomon Mujuru, Zanu-PF stalwart and one of the most powerful men in Zimbabwe, was killed in a fire that destroyed his farm house outside Harare. Although no details of the fire have emerged, his death is being treated as suspicious by the public and media, conscious of his (and his wife’s) role in the party’s internal power struggles. Politicians are falling over themselves to pay tribute, but what they’re really wondering is what this means for Zanu’s future. By SIMON ALLISON.

Wealthy, powerful politicians (especially ones with enemies) shouldn’t die in plane crashes. Or car accidents. Or fires. No matter the official line, their deaths will always be shrouded in mystery. Did Samora Machel’s plane crash of its own accord, or was it helped down? Could the car that collided into Morgan Tsvangirai’s vehicle, killing his wife, have crashed into any other car or was it always intended for Tsvangirai?

And now we ask a new question: was the fire that raged through Solomon Mujuru’s farm house on Monday night – the fire that killed the longtime Zanu-PF general, for decades Mugabe’s chief military man – merely a matter of an accidental spark and an unfortunate wind direction, or did someone start the blaze?

Details about the incident remain sketchy, but speculation is rife. General Mujuru is Zimbabwe’s most decorated post-independence general, leading the country’s armed forces until his retirement in 1995, and played an important role in Mugabe’s rise to power within the independence movement. Even after his retirement, he retained his influence, leading one faction of the ruling party along with his wife, Joyce, who just happens to be Zimbabwe’s Vice-President and one of the main candidates to succeed Mugabe at the top of Zanu-PF.

Is his death a warning to Joyce Mujuru from the other Zanu wing, the one backing defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa? Or was the fire intended for Joyce herself, and the general was just in the wrong place at the wrong time? Or was it just an accident?

We’ll probably never know the truth, but we are going to see the repercussions in the next few weeks as the race to be the next Mugabe goes into overdrive. DM

Read more:

  • Zim’s General Mujuru dies on Zim Online;
  • Who was Mujuru? in Zimbabwe’s NewsDay.

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