- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 22, 2002

LONDON A white British woman who had worked as a local government officer in Essex is the latest and most unlikely beneficiary of Robert Mugabe's land-grab policy in Zimbabwe.
Anne Matonga and Bright, her black Zimbabwean husband, have been given a 1,500-acre farm after it was seized from a white farmer on the orders of the president.
Mrs. Matonga's new home, which the farmer and his family had lived on for four generations, is a reward for her husband's support of Mr. Mugabe, whose dictatorial policies are responsible for Zimbabwe being ostracized by much of the outside world.
Mr. Matonga, 34, was until recently the head of the pro-Mugabe Zimbabwean Broadcasting Corp. and now works for a government department.
Last week, Mrs. Matonga, 39, tended spring roses at her new home while the former owners, Vincent and Monica Schultz, tried to get accustomed to their new life in a tiny apartment in Harare, the capital.
Despite moving to Zimbabwe last year after a lifetime in Britain, Mrs. Matonga spoke angrily, and without a hint of irony, last week against the "white colonialists who stole our land."
Mrs. Matonga, who married Mr. Matonga in Britain five years ago, praised Mr. Mugabe for his "patience with the racist white farmers" as she spoke to the Sunday Telegraph at her new home in Banket, 50 miles north of Harare. She said those evicted by force "only have themselves to blame."
She dismissed as "nothing but propaganda" reports of widespread starvation across Zimbabwe and charges that Mr. Mugabe had won this year's election by vote-rigging and crushing any opposition.
As personal bodyguards from Mr. Mugabe's feared youth militia slept under nearby trees, Mrs. Matonga said 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 of the British prime minister.
The Matongas, who also have a spacious house in a prosperous suburb of Harare, paid nothing when they were "resettled" on Mupandagutu Farm last month.
As the couple arrived, Mr. Schultz, the previous owner, had been arrested by the police for defying the eviction order minutes before. "Mrs. Matonga was screaming at me: 'Get off our land; we are taking back what you stole from our forefathers,'" Mrs. Schultz said. "I thought it was a remarkable thing for her to say since she was clearly white and British."
The Schultzes, who are among more than 3,000 white Zimbabwean farmers being handed eviction orders, spent the last of their savings $17,000 on severance packages for their 130 workers. In addition, they received an angry call from Mr. Matonga demanding the return of irrigation pipes they had sold to pay their staff.
"We are feeling very bitter about the whole thing," said Mr. Schultz, 57. "We are left with absolutely nothing." His wife was born 58 years ago on the farm, which her family bought in the 1920s.
In Britain, the behavior of the Matongas has angered former friends and acquaintances, many of whom campaigned for Mr. Matonga to be allowed to complete his degree when he faced being sent back to Zimbabwe.


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