A WOMAN romantically linked with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has admitted attending a private function with him, but denies having an affair with the widower.
Aquilina Kayidza Pamberi runs an upmarket boutique in Bulawayo and is divorcing her husband of 12 years, Jacob Mandeya, who owns a trucking company.
Aquilina, who says she is an ordinary member of Tsvangirai’s MDC party, has threatened to sue the state-run Herald newspaper which published the allegations, declaring: “I feel violated by these falsehoods which have been used to tarnish the name of Tsvangirai.”
New Zimbabwe.com can today reveal that it had also been approached by a source with information on the alleged affair before the Herald broke the story.
The source tipped this website of last Friday’s court appearance by Aquilina to seek a restraining order against her husband whom she accuses of domestic violence. Mandeya denied the abuse charges in an interview with New Zimbabwe.com on Tuesday.
The restraining order, the source said, would set the ground for a divorce, "allowing Aquilina to be with Tsvangirai".
The mum-of-two said in court that since getting married to Mandeya on January 1, 1998, her marriage had been “infested with abuse and stress”.
Mandeya withholds income and resources and “persecutes” her, she claimed, adding that he stalks her and subjects her modes of communication “to inspection on a daily basis, making me explain all calls and text messages and contacts saved in my phone.”
As a result, she moved out of the matrimonial home last year and stayed away for three months but later moved back.
But “after realising that he has not changed his ways”, she “decided to move out again, this time to pursue channels to dissolve the customary union.”
Jacob Mandeya told New Zimbabwe.com from Bulawayo on Tuesday that he was not a woman abuser, insisting that his failure to challenge Aquilina’s court action last Friday was not an admission of guilt.
“I’m not a violent person, and certainly not a woman abuser,” Mandeya said. “Anybody is at liberty to say whatever they want, whenever they want, but the challenge is to provide evidence.”
Asked directly if he had heard of the alleged affair between his wife and Tsvangirai prior to the publication of the claims in the media, Mandeya replied: “I don’t want to commit myself one way or the other on that particular issue.”
Asked if he would be surprised if Aquilina ended up with Tsvangirai, he replied: “That’s her choice.”
Is he still hopeful his marriage can work?
“Her comments are quite conclusive,” said Mandeya, who showed annoyance that his wife had put him on speaker while on the phone to him in the presence of a lawyer and journalists.
In the conversation, Aquilina asked Mandeya if Tsvangirai had been mentioned in their disputes to which he is said to have replied: “I don’t know where that came from. You know I never said such a thing.”
On Tuesday, he said: “Firstly, I think it’s inappropriate for someone to put another person on speaker without their knowledge and consent.
“But she is free to design a statement to achieve whatever she wants to achieve.”
A source told New Zimbabwe.com Aquilina met Tsvangirai sometime in 2009 and they both attended Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe's graduation party in December of that year.
She explained: "The Prime Minister was the guest of honour at the party and he addressed us and afterwards we went to greet him. I greeted him like any other party member so I don't know where the allegations of the affair are coming from.
“Never at one time has Mandeya accused me of having an affair with Tsvangirai."
On a date last November, the couple reportedly checked into the Nesbert Castle hotel in Bulawayo for a night of passion.
And Aquilina confided in friends that Tsvangirai had promised to marry her “after the elections”, which President Robert Mugabe says will be held sometime this year.
Despite denials of the affair from the Prime Minister’s spokesman, a senior MDC source said: “The story has grains that belong to the realm of the truth.”
Tsvangirai’s wife, Susan, died in March 2009 in a car accident in which the Prime Minister escaped with minor injuries.
Since then, Tsvangirai has been linked with a string of women including a wealthy commodity broker from Harare, Locadia Karimatsenga Tembo, 38, with whom he attended several public engagements.
Tsvangirai was also forced to deny he would marry his late wife’s sister, Leah Mhundwa, who by tradition has become the caretaker mother for his six children.
The rumour mill was sent into overdrive in May 2009 when he hit the red carpet at South African President Jacob Zuma’s inauguration with Arikana Chihombori, a United States-based Zimbabwean medical doctor. His office later explained it was a chance encounter.
Ruhanya said: "History has shown that the wives of political players are sources of stability or instability to the political life of their husbands.
"My argument is that if Tsvangirai fails to handle his romantic life properly as he seeks a new wife, he could be in the same situation Mugabe got into when the late Amai Sally Mugabe passed away in 1992. There is a general belief among Zimbabweans that Sally was a compassionate scandal-free lady, and she assisted Mugabe compared to his current wife, Grace."