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Top Zimbabwe military officer killed in blaze
by Staff Writers
Harare (AFP) Aug 16, 2011

The leader of President Robert Mugabe's military forces in Zimbabwe's independence war, ex-defence chief Solomon Mujuru, burnt to death at his home overnight, officials said Tuesday.

It was unclear what caused the blaze at the farmhouse of the 62-year-old retired general, husband of Vice President Joyce Mujuru and the country's most decorated military officer, a party official said.

"There was a fire at his house and he died as result of that but we do not know the cause of that fire," ZANU-PF official Simon Khaya Moyo told AFP.

Mugabe described Mujuru's death as "a very sad and tragic loss."

"This horrific tragedy the full details of which are still coming has robbed the nation of a veteran commander of our war of liberation," Mugabe said in a statement.

"A courageous fighter and commander who led from the front, General Mujuru was part of the wartime command which moulded thousands of young men and women into one guerrilla army with the capability of militarily dismantling the racist settler colonial dispensation," Mugabe said.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said: "Rtd General Mujuru, the founding commander of our national army after independence, will be greatly remembered for his sterling role in the liberation struggle and his outstanding and distinguished service in our military.

"It is indeed tragic that we have lost a patriot who served his country with honour and distinction."

Mujuru was burnt beyond recognition, Security Minister Sidney Sekeramayi said.

Police were investigating, notably to determine whether the fire was accidental or criminal.

Joyce Mujuru was at the house in Beatrice, 75 kilometres (50 miles) south of the capital Harare, when officials visited early Tuesday to express their condolences, state television reported.

Sekeramayi said that when he arrived at the house: "I still thought he might have been badly burnt."

"It was difficult to reconcile that he actually died, burnt beyond recognition," said a tearful Sekeramayi in an announcement on state television. "One of Zimbabwe greatest sons is gone," he said.

The farm was one of about 3,000 seized from their white owners in Mugabe's controversial land reform programme.

Solomon Mujuru retired from service in 1995 but remained one of the most respected figures in Zimbabwe's political and military circles, and seen as the force behind his wife who was appointed vice president in 2004.

He led Mugabe's forces from training camps in Mozambique in the 1970s guerrilla war against Ian Smith's white-minority regime, serving as commander-in-chief of the Zimbabwe National Liberation Army.

At independence in 1980, Mujuru was appointed the first commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, combining the armies of former liberation movements and of Smith's Rhodesia. He was appointed full general in 1992.

He also had business interests in key sectors of the economy, including diamond mining.

His death would be a blow to Mugabe and his ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front), said University of Zimbabwe political scientist John Makumbe.

Mugabe "used to rely on him on what to do and what not to do. The nation has lost a pillar and there is likely to be more fragmentation in ZANU-PF," he said.

The Mujuru couple was among a host of Zimbabwean politicians, including Mugabe, under US sanctions because of alleged human rights abuses by the government.

Mugabe travelled to Angola Tuesday for a southern African summit.

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Zimbabwe powerbroker, ex-defence chief Mujuru dies in blaze
Harare Aug 16, 2011
Zimbabwe's first post-independence defence chief and leader of President Robert Mugabe's guerrilla war forces, Solomon Mujuru, died in a fire at his home, his party said Tuesday. It was unclear what caused the blaze at the house of the 62-year-old retired general, husband of Vice President Joyce Mujuru, a ZANU-PF official said. "There was a fire at his house and he died as result of that ... read more

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