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Rare Unity at Funeral for Zimbabwean Hero Solomon Mujuru

  • Peta Thornycroft

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace attend the burial of Solomon Mujuru, the country's first defense chief and husband of Vice President Joyce Mujuru, August 20, 2011 in Harare

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace attend the burial of Solomon Mujuru, the country's first defense chief and husband of Vice President Joyce Mujuru, August 20, 2011 in Harare

The burial Saturday of one of Zimbabwe’s best known soldiers drew record crowds and rare unity among Zimbabweans of all political parties. Retired general Solomon Mujuru, the former army commander who backed President Robert Mugabe to lead Zimbabwe during the war to end minority white rule, died in a fire at his farm house last week.

President Mugabe praised Mujuru as a great soldier and freedom fighter and said his legacy would be defended by his comrades and a strong security service.

Mujuru, who was in Mr. Mugabe’s Zanu PF party for more than 40 years, was the husband of Zimbabwe’s current vice president Joice Mujuru.

Mr Mugabe said it was strange that a man known for his courage as a soldier should have been burned to ashes at his home. And the president called the death, "inexplicable." But he said people must accept this as God’s will.

At the ceremony at Heroe’s Acre on the outskirts of Harare, Mr. Mugabe used the opportunity, as he often does at public events, to attack the West. “We continue to say to the British and allies and the Americans leave us alone. Get away from us we are an independent people we are a sovereign people but no, the British want to debate us every month in parliament as if we are an extension of Britain," he said.

Mr Mugabe also said that political violence has decreased recently and called on the country to ensure that peace continued. "Let’s create peace. We are very happy that over these last months there has been quite some remarkable peace in the country, and we all agree, no violence, no violence, no violence," he said.

Mr Mugabe was forced to enter into a unity government with the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party after disputed elections in 2008.

Leaders of the MDC who attended the burial of Mujuru, have blamed Mr. Mugabe's Zanu PF party for incidents of political violence since the government came to power in 2009.

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.

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