Retired General Solomon Mujuru’s Death Lights Up Social Media

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Harare, Zimbabwe – Once again, social media and mobile telephony makes the news for breaking the news.

Early Tuesday, social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, were abuzz with news of Retired General Solomon Mujuru’s death. Mujuru, who was 62, died in a fire accident at his home.

Social networks carried vital information to Zimbabweans both locally and abroad ahead of traditional news outlets.  Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, had by mid-morning updated its profile on Mujuru to indicate that he had died.

If anything, this proves that social networks and the mobile have indeed come to Zimbabwe in a big way, and will increasingly become a source of local news developments.

The news went viral as people shared news via their mobiles phones and on social media platforms.

By mid-morning, the national broadcaster, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, had not yet carried news of Mujuru’s death, prompting some people to question its news-gathering approach.

With technology and news in the digital age spreading information so quickly, the broadcast network was rather slow to fill the information gap.

Regardless, the news spread like wildfire across the twittersphere and of course on to Facebook, with many Zimbabweans expressing shock, commenting and sharing the sad news.

Reporting on Mujuru’s death confirms that conventional news media in Zimbabwe have to position themselves appropriately in relation to the social networks and mobile phones to report news.

However, even though people heard the news of Mujuru’s death on social networks, they still wanted the information to be verified. Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks encourage people to speculate.

As much as they can be a source of news, social networks can be a repository for false or misleading reports.

What is required is for conventional news outlets to leverage on the power of social networks without compromising traditional journalism principles such as accuracy, brevity, objectivity and fairness.

In the face of social networks’ ubiquitous distribution of news that maybe false or true, traditional news outlets still have a key role to play in providing investigation and context into issues.

Solomon Mujuru, also known as Rex Nhongo (May 1, 1949 – August 16, 2011) was a Zimbabwean military officer and politician who led Robert Mugabe‘s guerrilla forces during the Rhodesian Bush War.

In post-independence Zimbabwe, he went on to become army chief before leaving government service in 1995. After leaving his post in the Zimbabwe National Army, he got into politics becoming Member of Parliament for Chikomba on a Zanu PF ticket. He was generally regarded as one of the most feared men in Zimbabwe. His wife, Joyce Mujuru, became Vice-President of Zimbabwe in 2004.

Retired General Solomon Mujuru Dies

Harare, Zimbabwe – One of the leading icons of Zimbabwe’s struggle for freedom from British colonial rule and husband of the vice president, Retired General Solomon Mujuru has died. He was 62.

According to media reports, Mujuru died last night at his Beatrice farm, Harare  South, where he is said to have burnt to death at his home.

Regarded as one of Zimbabwe’s main political power brokers, Mujuru, also known as Rex Nhongo (c.1949 – 2011), led incumbent President Robert Gabriel Mugabe’s guerrilla forces during the independence war.

In post-independence Zimbabwe, he went on to become army chief before leaving government service in 1995. Mujuru is the former MP for Chikomba. He is generally regarded as one of the most feared men in Zimbabwe. His wife, Joyce Mujuru, is the Vice President and a former Water Affairs Minister in the Zimbabwe Cabinet.

During the liberation war, Mujuru led the ZANLA forces when Mugabe languished in jail for 10 years from 1964 to 1974.

He took over the command of the Zimbabwe National Army  at independence in 1980, retiring 10 years later to go into business.

Popular speculation is that he owns anywhere between six and sixteen farms, including Alamein farm, a productive and high-value operation illegally requisitioned as part of a “landgrab” from Guy Watson-Smith in 2001, as found by the Zimbabwe High Court and international courts. However, he remained an influential member of the ruling ZANU-PF politburo and central committees.

“Vice President Joice Mujuru leads a powerful faction in Mugabe’s party backed by her husband, who commanded loyalty in the military. The general, a leader of the guerrilla war that swept Mugabe to power, commanded the military for more than a decade after Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980,” reported the Washington Post.

“Mujuru’s death was likely to intensify turmoil in Mugabe’s party over the question of who will succeed the 87-year-old president. Joice Mujuru and her supporters in the party are chief rivals to Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and his followers, who have been vying for supremacy in the party should Mugabe, in ailing health, die or retire,” added the newspaper.

Analysts said that Mujuru’s death is likely to intensify turmoil in President Robert Mugabe’s party over the question of who will succeed the 87-year-old president.

Retired General Mujuru’s Career

Zimbabwe African People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA), 1960s; Zimbabwe National Liberation Army (ZANLA), 1971; Acting commander-in-chief of ZANLA, 1975; Joint leader of Zimbabwe People’ Army (ZIPA) a united force of ZIPRA and ZANLA, 1976; Deputy Secretary of Defence for Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), 1977; Commander, Zimbabwe National Army, 1981; promoted to full General 1992; Member of Parliament for Chikomba, 1994-2000.