THE wife of jailed South African spy Tendai Matambanadzo, also called Tendai, has for the first time spoken out on the mafia-style abduction of her husband by the Zimbabwean state security ag
ents over the dramatic espionage case.
Tendai said she was initially devastated by the sensational issue but was relieved when Matambanadzo got five years in prison instead of a possible 20 years.
She said she was bracing herself for the tough life without her husband.
“It was a difficult situation because we did not know what was going on. The way it happened was dramatic. He disappeared for seven days and we searched at every police station in vain,” she said in an interview.
“We went through a period of uncertainty but in the end, on judgement day (in February), I was devastated but also relieved because he had been convicted although it was for five instead of 20 years.”
Accompanied by her husband’s brother, Tichafa Matambanadzo, who was always at her side from the start to the end of the trial, Tendai said the case developed in a manner which left her emotionally drained and shocked.
“It was dramatic throughout. The saga started on December 14 last year when our gardener came and told me there were people outside the gate looking for my husband but they had indicated he should not tell me,” she said.
“I didn’t know who they were and what they wanted so I immediately tried to phone him (husband) to tell him about the situation. His phone was off. I had had lunch with him that afternoon and his phone had no battery. So I then remembered that and decided to drive to where I thought he was.”
Tendai said that marked the beginning of what was to become a painful physical and emotional experience for her. “As I drove out of our home (in Chisipite) I saw a car following me. It flashed lights for me to stop and I did,” she said.
“The men, four of them, drove close to me but suddenly made a fast U-turn in the opposite direction. It seemed initially they had thought I was escaping with my husband but when they realised I was alone they got away.”
Tendai proceeded to look for her husband but they missed each other along the way. When she returned home about an hour later she found that he had been seized by people she did not know.
She then phoned her lawyer Selby Hwacha to start the long search for her husband.
“We searched at every police station in Harare but we couldn’t locate him. Two days later we filed a missing person report,” she said.
After that Tendai spent a week in the dark, agonising about the fate of her husband. She had no clue about what was going on and why.
“But out of the blue he phoned after seven days to say he was fine and I asked him where he was. He just said ‘I’m fine’,” she said.
“After that we started communicating through people we didn’t know. On one occasion, he phoned to say there were people who would phone me and I should go to meet them at the shops and give them warm clothes,” she said.
“I packed the clothes and went with Tich (the former radio and television personality) to meet them. It was on December 23. We gave them clothes and bought him some cigarettes. My husband later phoned to say he had received the items.”
At that point the Matambanadzo family at last had a clue about what was happening because on the same day the Zimbabwe Independent published a story reporting Tendai was among those arrested on espionage charges.
Matambanadzo was arrested by Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) operatives separately from the other alleged accomplices – Zimbabwe’s ambassador-designate to Mozambique Godfrey Dzvairo, Zanu PF foreign affairs director Itai Marchi, former Zanu PF MP Phillip Chiyangwa and Zanu PF deputy security chief Kenny Karidza.
A CIO operative who has now killed himself was also arrested. A South African secret service agent, Aubrey Welken, was arrested over the issue.
Matambanadzo has been jailed for five years, while Dzvairo and Marchi went in for six years each.
“We were very relieved that even though he was going, he got five years.
“He is a very strong man blessed with leadership qualities and we know he was mentally geared for it,” Tich said.
“He has adjusted to the situation and he is now more concerned about us than himself.”
Tich said they were doing their best to help his brother’s family.
“They are trying but obviously it can’t be the same as when he was there,” Tendai said.
“But we were relieved the issue is finally over and we are now waiting for him to come back home.”