Ruling could see Mujuru body exhumed

A Zimbabwean magistrate will rule today whether to allow a South African pathologist to give evidence at the inquest into the death of former top army general Solomon Mujuru, who died six months ago.

JOICE Mujuru -- Hired private pathologist.
JOICE Mujuru — Hired private pathologist.

A decision allowing the pathologist, Reggie Perumel, to give evidence would require Mujuru’s body to be exhumed to allow the South African doctor to re-examine it and carry out tests before he can testify in court, a lawyer for the former general’s family has said.

Mujuru, who was husband to Vice President Joice Mujuru, was one of Zimbabwe’s most powerful political figures and was seen as a kingmaker in President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU PF party.

His dead body was recovered from his farmhouse destroyed by fire last August and the ongoing inquest seeks to establish whether he was killed by the fire or other causes.

Cuban doctor Gabriel Aguero-Gonzalez who works at a Zimbabwean government hospital and was the first to conduct an autopsy on Mujuru’s corpse last Friday told the inquest that the former general died from inhaling carbon monoxide from the fire.

But Perumel, brought into the country by Mujuru’s family and who has been sitting in during the inquest, differed with Aguero-Gonzalez’s verdict insisting that the Cuban had not conducted a professional or adequate investigation into the possible cause of death.

Perumel, whose opinions were conveyed to the court through the Mujuru family lawyer, Thakor Kewada, said the autopsy was not properly done because Aguero-Gonzalez had failed to do X-rays on the remains of Mujuru, examine skeleton structures or even establish whether the corpse he was examining was indeed the general’s.

The conflicting evidence from the pathologists was only one of a series of instances during the inquest when the more than 20 witness that testified have contradicted each other with, for example, some of the witnesses saying they heard gunshots hours before they were alerted of fire at Mujuru’s house.

Witnesses have also contradicted each other over whether the general was sober or drunk on the night of his death.

An icon of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle, Mujuru played a key role in Mugabe's rise to the top of ZANU (PF).

Following independence, he pretty much carried on as Mugabe’s muscleman – as independent Zimbabwe’s first black army chief after serving for a short stint under General Peter Walls, Rhodesia’s last army commander.

After leaving the army in 1992, Mujuru was elected MP for his Chikomba home constituency, before leaving public life in 1995 to concentrate on his business interests, ranging from farming to diamond mining.

Even after quitting public life, Mujuru retained immense power and influence in ZANU (PF), leading a faction that has tussled with another one led by Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa for control of the former liberation movement if and when Mugabe steps down.

His departure from the political scene is certain to strengthen the hand of Mnangagwa, a hardliner long regarded as Mugabe’s preferred heir.

Mujuru’s death has been subject of wild speculation, especially because of Zimbabwe’s long history of mysterious deaths – albeit most of them in road accidents – of leading political figures.

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