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Arson: New Zanu PF weapon?

Mujuru, a former top liberation war hero and Zanu PF politburo member was burnt “beyond recognition” after his farm house in Beatrice was destroyed in a fire.

Police say they are still investigating circumstances leading to the former general’s death.

Some Zanu PF supporters and neutrals believe Mujuru was murdered and the speculation was so intense that his widow Vice-President Joice Mujuru had to appeal for calm to allow for investigations to continue.

But Mujuru’s death has a striking resemblance to that of Corneous Nhloko, a former Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) operative in February. Nhloko died when a mysterious fire gutted his house in Silobela, and he was declared a national hero.

His family refused to have his remains interred at the Heroes Acre sparking speculation that they were not convinced that the fire was an accident.

Nhloko was a former head of Zipra’s National Security Organisation deputising Dumiso Dabengwa in the movement’s revolutionary council.

He was not a popular political figure, hence his mysterious death did not raise as much speculation as Mujuru’s demise has done.

However, the deaths are an addition to a long list of Zanu PF luminaries who died in mysterious circumstances after they were linked to conspiracies against President Robert Mugabe.

While there is no evidence to suggest that Mujuru’s death was an assassination, observers have linked it to the vicious battle to succeed Mugabe.

This has led many to ask questions on whether the Zanu PF factions have changed the way they eliminate each other.

Other senior Zanu PF officials who died in mysterious accidents that have never been properly explained include Josiah Tongogara, Sidney Malunga, Elliot Manyika, Moven Mahachi and Border Gezi.

United Kingdom-based political analyst Beki-themba Mpofu said the conspiracy theories were bound to emerge, given Mujuru’s stature and the way he died.

“Traditionally, death is treated with suspicion in our culture, particularly where it is not through natural causes,” Mpofu said.

“Zanu PF is traditionally a violent party, believed to maim non-conformist leaders, so when deaths within the party are systematic they rightfully feed into the world of conspirancy theories.”

He said assassinations could not be ruled out as the battle to succeed the ailing Mugabe intensifies.

Mugabe (87) wants to run in the next elections even though some of his closest lieutenants, including former Information minister Jonathan Moyo, have warned that delaying the polls could make it difficult for the octogenarian to mount a successful campaign.

Mujuru had appeared to have the upper hand over his main rival Defence minister Emmerson Mnagagwa in the battle to succeed Mugabe.

Although it was not clear if he had presidential ambitions of his own, Mujuru was the unquestionable force behind his wife’s ascendancy to the VP’s post.

Analysts fear there could be bloodshed as the Zanu PF factions battle to position themselves in the event of Mugabe’s death or voluntary exit from the political arena.

“With Mugabe’s health conspiring against him participating in next year’s elections, factionalism in a violent party like Zanu PF can breed violent attacks,” Mpofu said.

“Road accidents have killed many Zanu PF leaders to date and most now hedge against that risk, therefore, limiting the use of that method of internal elimination.”

Arson has also been used against Zanu PF opponents with several MDC activists dying after petrol bomb attacks.

Tichaona Chiminya and Talent Mabika, who were campaigning for Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, were in 2000 burnt beyond recognition when their car was petrol bombed by a Zanu PF mob in the run up to parliamentary elections.

One of the attackers was identified as Joseph Mwale, a CIO operative, but he has never been arrested despite a High Court order that he must be brought to justice.

Hundreds have also had their homesteads burnt down by Zanu PF activists who are never arrested.

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