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Senior Zimbabwe leader's death could spark infighting

Some speculate that the death of retired Zimbabwe army Gen. Solomon Mujuru in a fire was no accident, but rather a political 'hit' due to his willingness to challenge President Robert Mugabe.

By a correspondent / August 29, 2011

A poster of the late former Zimbabwean army supreme General Solomon Mujuru is held at his burial in Harare, Saturday, Aug, 20. Mujuru, who died in a fire at his farm, was laid to rest with full military honors.

Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP


Harare, Zimbabwe

The death of Zimbabwe’s retired Gen. Solomon Mujuru, widely regarded as the kingmaker in the former ruling party Zanu PF and a potential successor to President Robert Mugabe, has changed the political landscape in the troubled southern African country.

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General Mujuru, husband of Vice President Joice Mujuru, was a senior behind-the-scenes leader for politically connected officers in Zimbabwe’s army, and a fierce rival of defense minister and former intelligence chief Emerson Mnangagwa, who now appears to have an upper hand in succeeding the aging President Mugabe.

Mugabe’s Zanu PF party has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980, when the white minority leadership of a country then named Rhodesia lost elections to Mr. Mugabe’s black majority party.

Mugabe’s rule is credited with wholescale reform of the education system, making Zimbabwe one of the most literate countries in Africa, but also condemned for its disastrous economic policy of business and agricultural expropriation, which have made Zimbabweans among the continent’s poorest citizens.

Mujuru was a senior commander of the Zanu PF fighting force that brought the Rhodesian government, under Prime Minister Ian Smith, to the negotiation table in 1979. The late former guerrilla died in a suspicious inferno at his farm, about 60 kilometers to the south of capital Harare on Aug. 15. Police investigators claim the blaze was accidental, started by a candle lit by household staff following a power cut.

Political observers have dismissed the police claim, saying there is high suspicion that Mujuru was assassinated by state security agents for his outspokenness and willingness to challenge Mugabe. The former commander of the army was said by analysts to be the only person senior enough in Zanu PF to face up to Mugabe and to Mr. Mnangagwa, the leader of the rival faction that was competing to succeed Mugabe.

His death, analysts have said, could be the harbinger of a violent power struggle within the liberation struggle party.


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