17 Aug 2011

Powerful politician dead in Zimbabwe

8:38 am on 17 August 2011

One of the most powerful politicians in Zimbabwe is dead.

State Security Minister Sydney Sekeramayi said General Solomon Mujuru died in a fire at his farmhouse in Beatrice, about 80km (50 miles) south of the capital, Harare, early on Tuesday.

Mr Mujuru, 62, was one of Zimbabwe's most senior politicians and married to Vice-President Joice Mujuru.

Under his nom de guerre, Rex Nhongo, he was the director of Robert Mugabe's forces during the war of independence in the 1970s.

At independence in 1980 he took over the command of the army, before retiring and going into business 10 years later.

Pathologists and police are investigating the cause of the fire at the 3500-acre farm, which was seized from a white farmer in 2001.

A close relative told the BBC the family had no idea what caused it.

His body was found close to the front door apparently overcome by the fumes, the relative said.

Mr Mujuru was regarded as a moderate and was said to be in negotiations with the junior partner in the government, the Movement for Democratic Change.

The BBC reports there has been fierce rivalry between the Mujurus and Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa for control of the Zanu-PF party.