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Mujuru fire evidence deliberately destroyed?

HARARE- Fire Brigade officers failed to ascertain the cause of the fire that killed General Solomon Mujuru because scores of people who visited the farmhouse during and after the accident destroyed the evidence. Fire Brigade station officer, Mr Clever Mafoti, made the revelations at the seventh day of the inquest into the death of Gen Mujuru at the Harare Magistrates’ Courts yesterday.

STUNNED...Some of the people who visited Retired General Solomon Mujuru's farm residence soon after the inferno in which the former army chief perished mill around the gutted farmhouse.
STUNNED...Some of the people who visited Retired General Solomon Mujuru's farm residence soon after the inferno in which the former army chief perished mill around the gutted farmhouse.

Mr Mafoti was responding to Mr Clemence Chimbare of the Attorney-General’s Office who sought to know what could have caused the fire. “When we eventually arrived at the scene, most leads had been destroyed by people present,” he said.

Mr Mafoti said the fire could have started from the bedroom or the main lounge because peeling off of plasters and cracking showed that the fire had been in the two rooms for a long time. Asked how fire could start from two rooms, Mr Mafoti said it was possible in cases of arson or short circuit.

“In cases involving arson, the person who would have started the fire would have been of unsound mind or when there is a short circuit or when sockets are overloaded,” he said. Mr Mafoti said fire could be caused by the expansion of dust particles in the ceiling as a result of heat coming from the floor. He said the ceiling could eventually burst and the fire could spread to other areas.

Mr Mafoti, who was the 26th witness in the inquest, said on the day in question they received a phone call from Harare Central Police Station that fire had broken out at the Mujuru farmhouse at around 3:40am.

“I first made inquiries whether we were going to get water from the scene. It was fortunate that my superior who was known to Gen Mujuru was present. He knew that there was water 1km from the scene in the form of a dam and that there were some water bowsers at the farm,” he said.

He said the cars they had could not go to Beatrice without breaking down so they took a truck they referred to as a horse layer. Mr Mafoti said he left the station with seven subordinates at 4:09am. Asked why it took them 30 minutes to depart, Mr Mafoti said, “We did not have the capacity to travel outside Harare hence when we received the report we started making arrangements.”

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He said during the time in question, they had a vehicle, which carried 400 litres of water but it was leaking such that they would reach Beatrice without water if they had used it. Mr Mafoti said they arrived at the farm at around 5:03am and found the water bowser at the scene and they connected a portable pump and began dousing the fire.

“When we reached the scene, there were some pockets of fire here and there but the fire had already been put out,” he said. Mr Mafoti, who has been working for the Fire Brigade for 27 years, two of them as a station officer, estimated the damage of the fire to be 75 percent. Yesterday morning, the Mujuru family lawyer Mr Tekor Kewada requested that the inquest be held in the afternoon and the State consented.

In an interview, Mr Kewada said: “There are certain aspects I have been looking at and there is someone researching for me and I made a request to the State to accord postponement. When you are calling experts, there are certain aspects that I need to look at. I would also want to consider before I question.” He said both counsels were there to assist the court in the inquest.

Mr Kewada said if he felt there were insufficient experts, he would apply to call more experts. The inquest continues today with Mr Mafoti being questioned by the Mujuru family. An expert from the Police Ballistics Department and a Zesa official are also expected to give evidence.