Muckraker: Matonga’s Matters Of The Heart

THERE has naturally been much gloating in the official press over the failure of the US resolution on sanctions.

 

Nine countries voted for the resolution, including Burkina Faso, and five against. But Russia and China’s vetoes carried the day.

This will be a short-lived victory. The US and Britain will very quickly bring this matter to international attention again as soon as the opportunity presents itself while tightening the sanctions noose with measures of their own. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s crisis will feature at the top of the agenda at every regional meeting so long as the political repression persists.

There will be no respite and certainly no investment or balance-of-payments support. France and Italy, which only a year ago were showing impatience with Britain’s sanctions policy, are now resolute foes of the Mugabe regime. Botswana, Zambia, Kenya, and Liberia have all spoken out against a stolen election. And Zanu PF seems to think it can obtain a quick fix to the rapidly deteriorating economy by rail-roading the MDC into a dialogue that cannot take place so long as people are losing their lives.

Zanu PF in all seriousness believes it can conduct business as usual while opposition activists like Joshua Bakacheza are kidnapped and murdered.

And what of investigations into Tonderayi Ndira’s abduction and murder? Has anybody been prosecuted in connection with that?

A government spokesman was last weekend describing sanctions as “international racism”. Has that particular idiot seen the pictures of Ben Freeth and his family following their vicious assault by Gilbert Moyo and his gang? What sort of racism do we call that? Clearly one that acts with impunity.

Shocking events witnessed at the French embassy’s Bastille Day celebrations on July 14 this week. No, not the release of political prisoners from the regime’s royal fortress but an insufficiency of provisions for the tired and hungry masses.

Traditionally the weather is inclement and this year was no exception. After two weeks of unprecedented warm July weather, the clouds moved in on Juillet Quatorze and provided a gloomy backdrop to the “fete nationale” — celebrated in Paris amidst pomp and pageantry with a parade down the Champs Elysée, in sweltering heat.

But whatever the weather in wintry Harare, the large crowd that had come to celebrate France’s fete could usually look forward to some rewarding snacks that are invariably served on this occasion. Camembert, Brie, Gruyere and other delicious cheeses with different types of bread and paté normally head the appetising line-up accompanied by French wine, the nation’s premier export.

But alas, not this year. Apart from some nondescript samoosas and un-French chicken kebabs on skewers, there was precious little to take people’s minds off the national crisis. The cheese had been held up at the airport, we were told. And the few platters of snacks doing the rounds were set upon by hungry well-heeled citizens who claimed not to have eaten for, well, hours.

Those who just moments earlier had been singing “formez vous les battaillons…contre nous le tyrannée” were elbowing each other out of the way as they mugged the poor waitresses. Some lost whole platters as well as snacks. Muckraker heard a scream, only to find a bewildered waitress standing tray-less as prominent citoyens plundered her fare.

Admittedly the chocolate cake dessert was delicious but, s’il vous plait, ou était le fromage?

And the wine was South African. Sacré bleu! Was this sanctions a la francaise?

The large choir, hired to sing the national anthems of Zimbabwe (all three verses) and France (one verse), accounted for many of the disappearing snacks.

But thus fortified, they provided a lively chorus of greeting for Morgan Tsvangirai when he arrived. He was immediately mobbed by many of those present who perhaps thought he had brought some Dutch treats. No such luck!

One of the more colourful episodes of the land seizures, etched in the public memory, was the role played by Bright Matonga’s British wife, Anne Pout, who had joined her husband in taking over a farm at Banket owned by Monica and Vince Schulz whose family had lived there for four generations.

When Vince Schultz was arrested by the police for defying an eviction order, Anne Matonga screamed at him: “Get off our land: we are taking back what you stole from our forefathers,” a preposterous contention in the circumstances. Anne hailed from Essex!

The headline in the Daily Telegraph the next day read: “Essex woman rants against ‘whites’ as she takes over a snatched Zimbabwe farm.”

“A white British woman who formerly worked as a local government officer in Essex is the latest and most unlikely beneficiary of Robert Mugabe’s land-grab policy in Zimbabwe,” the Telegraph reported in 2002.

“Last week Mrs Matonga (39) tended spring roses at her new home, while the rightful owners, Vincent and Monica Schultz, tried to get accustomed to their new life in a tiny flat in Harare, the capital.

“Despite moving to Zimbabwe only last year (2001) after a lifetime in Britain, Mrs Matonga last week spoke angrily, and without a hint of irony, against the “white colonialists who stole our land”.

“Mrs Matonga, who married her husband in Britain five years ago, praised President Mugabe for his ‘patience with the racist white farmers’ as she spoke to the Telegraph at her new home in Banket, 50 miles north of Harare. She said those evicted by force ‘only have themselves to blame’.

“Mrs Matonga, speaking in a broad south Essex accent, dismissed as ‘nothing but propaganda’ reports of widespread starvation across Zimbabwe and allegations that Mugabe had won this year’s (2002’s) election by vote-rigging and crushing any opposition.

“As personal bodyguards from Mugabe’s feared youth militia slept under nearby trees, Mrs Matonga told how she regularly has to counter ‘negative’ stories about the crisis in Zimbabwe. “‘Britain should keep its nose out of Zimbabwe. Tony Blair has no right to interfere’,” she said.

“After delivering her diatribe, Mrs Matonga returned to supervising the crop of roses that had been planted earlier this year by Mr and Mrs Schultz, who are now living in a borrowed two-bedroom flat in Harare where they say they are ‘suffering endless sleepless nights’,” the Telegraph reported.

Bright Matonga’s role in the land grabs angered his friends in Britain who had campaigned for him to stay when the Home Office was about to deport him.

As Matonga neared the end of his degree, he faced being booted out of Britain by the Home Office for not meeting the requirements of a university student. However, Sir Teddy Taylor, his local Conservative MP, successfully campaigned on his behalf.

Matonga has been much in the public eye of late defending the regime’s appalling record over the past three months, attributing negative international publicity to the British.

One of the casualties of Matonga’s anti-British stance appears to be Anne who, according to reports in the Zimbabwe Times, has been abandoned on the farm while Bright has moved on to greener pastures, as it were.

The online publication reports that journalists in Harare have been “gripped in a frenzy of speculation” about Matonga’s private life. Why has the deputy Information minister suddenly become such an avowed defender of President Robert Mugabe, while at the same launching a virulent onslaught on Western nations, especially the UK, they ask?

“The secret is now out,” the Zimbabwe Times claims. “Matonga’s behaviour is linked to very personal issues, pertaining to affairs of the heart.

“The Zimbabwe Times can exclusively reveal that Matonga has officially moved out of the Matonga matrimonial home on a farm they seized from a commercial farmer and has since moved in with Sharon Mugabe, an immensely wealthy businesswoman,” the website reports. “The 36-year-old widow who has stolen the heart of the capricious Matonga, who stands a good chance of being named as new Minister of Information anytime now, runs a marketing communications firm, Imago Y&R.”

The Zimbabwe Times says Sharon’s exact relationship to the president could not be established amid suggestions that she is Mugabe’s niece, daughter of Albert Mugabe, the president’s late brother, the trade unionist who died in a swimming pool drowning in the early 1980s.

But this is all speculation. What is known for sure is that Imago Y&R, formerly Michael Hogg Young & Rubicam, was sold to Sharon Mugabe by Zimbabwe’s marketing guru Michael Hogg in 2005 after a failed bid by rival agency, Gary Thompson & Associates.

The takeover marked one of the biggest empowerment transactions in the sector. Mugabe acquired the controlling stake in the leading advertising, marketing and communications firm. She renamed it Imago Y&R.

“The agency won the contract to run Mugabe’s sleek election campaign ahead of the June 27 presidential election run off, and is believed to have raked in colossal profits from the glitzy but controversial campaign,” the Zimbabwe Times reports. “The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe underwrote the cost of Mugabe’s re-election campaign, while Matonga became increasingly vociferous in support of Mugabe.

“In June, Bernard Barnett, a Y&R corporate vice-president in London, told the Sunday Times that, following a tip-off, Sharon Mugabe had been asked whether her company was the professional media outfit called in by Mugabe’s advisers after the last elections.

“We asked the managing director if it was true — that they had been working for Zanu-PF — and she said she personally was one of the president’s communications advisers,” said Barnett. “It was a very unpleasant surprise.

“Neither she nor the agency should be working for a regime like that, and especially not campaigning for them.
Barnett said at the time Y&R would sell its 25% stake in Imago.

“We’re just anxious to end any possible connection between ourselves and that disgraceful regime,” he said. Mugabe, whose husband died two years ago, now lives with Matonga in her mansion in Borrowdale Brooke, the Zimbabwe Times reports.

“She has been spotted on several occasions in the company of Matonga at one or the other of her many business enterprises, including a designer fashion boutique in the Eastgate Shopping Mall.”

Matonga married Anne, a former municipal IT manager in 1997, and moved into her home in Billericay, a small commuter town in Essex, it was reported in 2002. Matonga is said to have met Anne while he was still at a college in Southend-on-Sea, a resort town east of London, where he studied media production and technology at South East Essex College.

Anne played a key role in preventing Matonga’s deportation from the UK, it is understood. After his graduation, Matonga worked as a delivery driver and a freelance journalist and was literally living off Anne.

Family sources, quoted by the Zimbabwe Times, described Anne as the marriage’s “driving force who smartened him up no end”.
Matonga returned home in November 2001 to head the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation’s television division. Anne and their son flew to Harare six months later.

Sharon Mugabe studied and worked in the US until 2000. She was a financial analyst, first with First Albany Brokerage Firm and later for New England Consulting Group.
She returned to Zimbabwe in 2000, and joined the African Banking Corporation as head of communications.

Finally, Muckraker would welcome a statement from Professor Jonathan Moyo putting to rest the ugly rumours that he is planning to rejoin Zanu PF and make himself available for cabinet office. Quite obviously no self-respecting politician, however ambitious and calculating, would want to be associated with a party that holds power through a programme of systematic violence against the opposition.

We are sure Moyo will do the right thing and put out a principled statement saying exactly why he could never contemplate rejoining Zanu PF.

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