Solomon Mujuru legacy divides opinion
By Lance Guma
The death of 62 year old retired army General Solomon Mujuru, in a farmhouse fire in Beatrice outside Harare in the early hours of Tuesday morning, has left Zimbabweans divided over what sort of legacy he leaves behind. Like most liberation war heroes from ZANU PF his legacy is a mixed bag.
Alongside the likes of the late army commander Josiah Tongogara, Mujuru led the liberation war against white minority rule. The current ZANU PF leader Robert Mugabe had to rely on the endorsement of General Mujuru to be accepted by the freedom fighters, who were very untrusting of the political leaders of the war.
Mujuru became the first black army general soon after independence and served in that position for the next ten years. But with ZANU PF’s unpopularity growing in the nineties as the leadership tightened its grip on power, Mujuru began to engage in activities that would later tarnish his legacy.
Having retired from the army Mujuru began a ‘business’ exercise that saw him amass an empire of farms, mines, properties and other business interests. In 2001 he targeted white commercial farmer Guy Watson-Smith and violently removed him off his two farms in Beatrice. Ironically Mujuru was to die on one of these farms.
Watson-Smith was made to leave the Alamein and Elim farms about 60km south of Harare with only his briefcase. Mujuru sold off all his property including lorries, tractors, irrigation equipment and household furniture. The farmer and his family fled to South Africa soon after their lawyers filed a High Court application against Mujuru who had taken assets worth an estimated US$2.5 million. Watson-Smiths lawyers in the case were attacked and assaulted.
Another insight into Mujuru’s character was to come when he sued the now defunct Horizon Magazine over a story he felt was defamatory. On realising that the editor of the magazine, Andy Moyse, was white, Mujuru is reported to have told the court: “If I had known white people had defamed me, I would have shot them.”
Before Joice Mujuru became vice-president, she was known for blocking a bid to set up Zimbabwe’s first mobile phone network in the early 1990s. As Information Minister she blocked Econet long enough for Telecel to set up. Telecel was part owned by her husband.
In April 2004 Mujuru controversially took over the River Ranch diamond mine, with the help of Adel Abdul Rahman al Aujan, a millionaire Saudi real estate developer. The previous owners Adele and Michael Farquhar were forced off the property by police at gunpoint. Despite the courts passing judgement in favour of the Farquhar’s, Mujuru continues to occupy and mine the area.
When the Mineral Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe refused to buy the diamonds from this mine, Mujuru flexed his muscles in the ZANU PF Central Committee and had the entire board replaced. Allegations have been made that the mine is being used to launder some of the diamond plunder from contracts in the DRC, secured by Mujuru and his allies. This is because their production numbers don’t tally with revenue.
Recently SW Radio Africa revealed how Mujuru’s daughter, Nyasha del Campo, tried to set up a deal on behalf of her parents involving illegal gold from the DRC. She and her husband Pedro live in the Spanish capital Madrid and set up two companies there, allegedly with the help and financial support of the parents. The deal involved shipping about US$35 million worth of gold nuggets per month to Switzerland.
Firstar a company with offices in Europe, said Mujuru’s daughter offered to sell them the gold from the DRC. The company said it withdrew from the deal when it realized who Nyasha was. The company also claimed that Vice President Joice Mujuru then phoned their Chief Executive in Europe, demanding that the decision be reversed. SW Radio Africa