Mujuru death saga continues

REMAINS of Zimbabwe’s post independence army commander, retired general Solomon Mujuru, could be exhumed for a second post-mortem as the family ups pressure to reveal the exact circumstances leading to his death exactly a year ago.

Mujuru, was found dead after a mysterious inferno gutted his Ruzambo farm house in Beatrice on August 16 last year.

But it is not yet clear as to whether the “kingmaker”, as he was known in political circles, died because of fire or it was simply a convenient cover-up for a heinous murder.

Thakor Kewada, the family lawyer, has confirmed to the Daily News on Sunday that he has been instructed by the widow, Vice President Joice Mujuru and the family to proceed with lodging an application with the ministry of Home Affairs for exhumation to enable an independent pathologist to work on the remains.

“I can confirm that I have been instructed to proceed with applying for exhumation so that we have a second autopsy conducted and get to the bottom of the matter,” Kewada said on Thursday.

“It is unfortunate that this is being done after his anniversary, but it is not too late. All we want is that a second thought is brought in and we satisfy the wish of the family,” Kewada said.

“The family wants to bring in experienced South African forensic expert Reggie Perumal to conduct the second autopsy with assistance from a government appointed pathologist,” said Kewada.

The late Zanu PF politburo member, who is credited with sponsoring the rise of his wife to the post of the party and country’s Vice President ahead of rival Emmerson Mnangagwa in 2004, was burnt to ashes.

A 13-day public inquest held at Harare Magistrates’ Courts failed to unlock the real cause of Mujuru’s death with 39 witnesses giving varying versions of events.

Among the witnesses who testified in the high-profile case was a government appointed pathologist of Cuban nationality, Gabriel Gonzales Alvero, who worked on Mujuru’s body at the One Commando military barracks.

According to Alvero, Mujuru could have died of high carbonisation due to asphyxiation by smoke.

He defended his findings but conceded he did not have all required tools to conduct the post mortem.

For the Mujuru family, Kewada, assisted by Perumal, trashed Alvero’s findings during the inquest hearings.

The family quizzed Alvero how he managed to positively identify the corpse as that of Mujuru, and he responded that officials at the military camp where he conducted the autopsy told him that the body was that of Zimbabwe’s most decorated general.

Kewada also questioned Alvero’s credentials after it emerged that he was not registered with the Zimbabwean government when he conducted the autopsy.

Kewada also questioned  why the post mortem had to be done at a military institution which had no adequate equipment for a forensic study.

“According to my forensic expert (Perumal), your findings are wrong and I put it to you that you hurried to conduct this post-mortem even when you did not have enough equipment,” said Kewada then.

Alvero admitted that he might not have done enough because of insufficient tools.

“When we completed the study, we thought the elements were enough to make conclusions,” said Alvero.

“The body was lying face down, the right hand was along the body, and a part of the left arm was under his thorax (chest). The legs were extended.”

Alvero said he wanted to take the body to Parirenyatwa Hospital mortuary, but officers attending the scene decided that the remains should be taken to One Commando Barracks mortuary.

“The first challenge was that there were not enough instruments to use for the study,” said Alvero, speaking through Spanish translator Lovemore Gwati.

“We started by looking at the skull,” Alvero said.

“We observed that there was no sign of trauma on the skull. We observed that part of the skull had been broken because of the intensity of the heat.” Kewada, however, said there was no way Alvero could have known this without running tests on the skull.

Alvero said he proceeded to examine the chest and abdomen, which he said were “missing.”

Kewada disputed this, saying there was no way Mujuru’s internal anatomy could have been burned when the carpet beneath the body was not damaged.

“On the ribs, we observed that they had separated, some bending. It was caused by the fire,” he claimed.

He said the left arm and the lower part of the body were burnt to ash.

“The kidneys, bladder, prostrate were absent. The spleen and endocrine organ could not be found. It was the act of fire,” Alvero said.

But the Mujuru pathologist refuted this: “My expert says that it was unlikely for the kidney to be burnt because it is in a protected position,” said Kewada.

Kewada quizzed Alvero why he failed to examine the brain as required of all autopsies to which he said it was “inconvenient because of the state of the body”.

Kewada said: “A proper autopsy carried out by a pathologist involves cutting the body from top to bottom and examining each organ separately, you didn’t do it.”

The Mujuru family pathologist further said he doubted DNA results of the corpse which matched with Mujuru’s daughter, Kumbirai saying there were chances of proving this wrong.

Other witnesses told the court that sounds akin to gunshots were heard on the night Mujuru died.

But in his ruling, Walter Chikwanha, the presiding magistrate, ruled out foul play saying Mujuru died of high carbonisation.

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