Record Funeral Crowds Hear Mugabe Call for Peace

Posted August 20th, 2011 at 3:30 pm (UTC-5)
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A record-setting crowd gathered on the outskirts of Harare for the funeral of one of Zimbabwe's heroes and top political power brokers.

In a country divided by bitter politics, political enemies united Saturday to praise retired military chief General Solomon Mujuru, an ally of President Robert Mugabe who helped win Zimbabwe's independence and end white minority rule.

Mujuru died in a fire at his farm house Tuesday, burned beyond recognition, sparking rampant speculation that his death may not have been an accident. But President Mugabe urged onlookers at Hero's Acre to control their anger, telling them, “Please, no violence.”

Mr. Mugabe praised Mujuru as a great soldier and freedom fighter, saying his death was “inexplicable” and that people must accept this as God's will.

Mujuru, who was in his 60s, served in Mr. Mugabe's Zanu PF party for more than 40 years.

Analysts say Mujuru's death is likely to intensify turmoil within the party over the question of who will succeed the 87-year-old president once he steps down from office.

Mujuru's wife, Joice Mujuru, is Zimbabwe's current vice president and leads a powerful faction in Mr. Mugabe's party. The other faction vying to succeed Mr. Mugabe is led by Defense Minster Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mr. Mugabe entered into a power sharing agreement with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in 2008 after disputed elections were held. The shaky coalition has had difficulty governing.

Morgan Tsvangirai, MDC leader and now prime minister in the inclusive government, attended the funeral and praised Mujuru for his role in ending white rule.

Mujuru was known as “Rex Nhongo” during the war for independence and left government service to become a businessman and farmer. He never gave interviews and many political analysts saw him as one of the few prepared to stand up to Mr Mugabe.