PRIME Minister Morgan Tsvangirai holds tightly to a mystery woman while on a love cruise in Singapore onboard a ship called the Legend of the Seas.
The 60-year-old – due to wed on Saturday – is seen in another photograph soaking in the sun dressed in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt with the same light-skinned woman next to him.
These were the images which gripped the attention of reporters who thronged the Rotten Row Magistrates’ Court on Thursday to hear a South African – 35-year-old Nosipho Regina Shilubane – become the latest woman to try and have the Prime Minister’s nuptials stopped.
Shilubane claimed she was engaged to Tsvangirai after being introduced to him by her church pastor at a hotel in South Africa in September 2009.
The mum-of-two, who did not appear in court, said Tsvangirai had taken her on holiday to Singapore, the Seychelles and Botswana and that the two were "still engaged to be married".
The other woman keen to halt the wedding – Locardia Karimatsenga – also made representations to Harare magistrate, Munamato Mutevedzi, through her lawyers, objecting to Tsvangirai's marriage to fiancée Elizabeth Macheka.
Karimatsenga claims Tsvangirai married her last November and paid lobola. A video of the ceremony – a copy of which was submitted to court – was broadcast on ZBC last night.
The magistrate asked lawyers for both women to make written submissions and promised to deliver a verdict at 8AM on Friday.
Last night, rumours swelled that Norton woman Josephine Chibale – a long-term lover of Tsvangirai going back to the time when his late wife, Susan, was still alive – could lodge her own objections to the wedding sometime Friday and possibly a second woman from Bulawayo.
After his wife’s death in March 2009, Tsvangirai impregnated 21-year-old Loreta Nyathi and was cited in the divorce of Aquilina Kayidza Pamberi – just two of more than a dozen women he has been linked with.
It was not clear if Loreta – who gave birth to a boy named Ethan in November 2010 and receives US$1,400 monthly maintenance from the premier – or Aquilina could be plotting the legal challenge.
Fast mover ... L-R The late Susan, Locardia Karimatsenga and Elizabeth Macheka
High drama ... The Harare Magistrates Court
The day started with Karimatsenga the only hurdle between Tsvangirai and his wedding on Saturday, but Shilubane’s lawyer Wellington Pasipanodya’s arrival in court sparked dramatic scenes and fuelled a scandal that has already hurt the MDC-T leader’s reputation.
Emerging from court, Pasipanodya said: “My client wants the wedding to be stopped because she engaged with Tsvangirai in 2010 in South Africa, and she is still waiting for him to come and fulfil the promise.
“The magistrate told us that we should come back tomorrow morning so that the case is dealt with quickly to allow anyone who would have been aggrieved to appeal.”
In an affidavit submitted in court, Shilubane told how her pastor, Lazarus Muriritirwa of the Gospel Assembly Church, played match-maker on September 5, 2009.
“He said there was a friend of his who wanted to meet me. I only got to know it was Tsvangirai when I went to his hotel room in Pallazio Hotel in Fourways, in Monte Casino Mall,” she says in the affidavit.
Tsvangirai had asked the pastor and his son, Edwin, to step outside to be left alone with Shilubane.
“He told me that he was a widower and that he was looking for a new bride to marry as he had lost his wife and he had approached the pastor to find a suitable woman for him,” she says.
“He told me that he wanted to start a relationship with me and that I could go home and think about it and if I was willing and interested I could return the next day...”
Shilubane says a week later, she was on the plane to Harare at Tsvangirai’s invitation and she had been accommodated at her pastor’s Borrowdale home. Over two days between September 18 and 20, the two lovebirds “made love” without protection at the residence, she claims.
After returning home, she says Tsvangirai called to check on her and “expressed disgust and shock” to learn that she lived in Yeoville – a poor Johannesburg neighbourhood.
“He said ‘how can you stay in that hell hole? You need to get a nicer place in a nice location where I can come and see you in an uptown area’. I looked for a place and I found a Town House in a place called Buccleuch in Johannesburg North near Sandston...”
Tsvangirai transferred R13,000 into her account to facilitate the move.
The Prime Minister took his annual holiday on December 28 that year and flew into South Africa with his twin children Millicent and Vincent.
“We met at OR Tambo airport to fly together to the Seychelles... We went on holiday from December 28 to January 10, 2010. We were intimate throughout the holiday period and we always had unprotected sex all the times as he had asked me to go on family planning medication as he said he did not want to have any more children.”
She says their relationship continued to grow and on November 19, 2010, he asked her to “follow him to Gaborone in Botswana where he had gone for vacations, he said he was distressing, and he missed me and wanted to make love to me”.
“I eagerly followed him, and we stayed together at his hotel making love. On December 27, 2010, we went for another love cruise holiday in Singapore for two weeks until early 2011. Our holiday love cruise was a boat called Legend of the Seas.”
She claims in January 2011, Tsvangirai went to her house in Buccleuch with an escort by South Africa’s VIP protection unit. The Prime Minister had told her he “wanted to be serious with me and throw me in the kitchen”.
“I introduced him to my two children as my boyfriend and during this year he visited me on numerous occasions with his motorcade and sometimes he would even come with South African Police Services motorcade vehicles.”
A month later, she says, Tsvangirai “proposed and asked me to marry him and he indicated that he wanted to have a wedding ceremony and wed me in Zimbabwe”.
She adds: “He told me that he would speak to our pastor for all the wedding arrangements. I accepted his marriage proposal and I told him that he needed to pay lobola as per our Tsonga custom. He promised he would do that and he tasked me to go and speak to my family to arrange a date which I did and was set for early 2012.”
Soon, she says, she started reading reports about Tsvangirai’s many lovers but he had dismissed the media reports and she “always believed his explanations as we were in love and I never thought that Morgan could have such a character as every time he professed undying love for me...”
She says in January 2012, her family convened and waited for Tsvangirai to come for the lobola negotiations but he failed to pitch, claiming to be busy with government business. Tsvangirai, she goes on, indicated that he would be ready at the end of December 2012.
“For all intents and purposes, we have and are still engaged to be married. I am therefore shocked to discover that Morgan intends to marry another woman Elizabeth Macheka on Saturday, September 15, 2012, without my knowledge and without first of all finishing issues with me – that is his proposal of marriage, engagement and his outstanding lobola negotiations and marriage to me.
“We are still very much in love and as such I object to granting of a marriage licence. I am legally advised, which advice I take as my own, that I can object to the issuance of a marriage licence in terms of Section 19 (1) and 19 (3) of the Marriages Act [5:11].”
Tsvangirai could yet pay a heavy political price for his colourful private life, says political analysts.
Journalist and political analyst Pedzisayi Ruhanya said Tsvangirai needed to "take a morality bath".
“The dark skeletons coming out of the Prime Ministers closet are tantamount to scoring own goals which will work against him come election time as his opponents are certain to use the events to soil his image,” he said.
If the wedding were to be blocked, it would be a major embarrassment for Tsvangirai, who had been expected to invite Mugabe, his political partner in a fractious coalition formed after a disputed 2008 election, as well as some foreign leaders to the ceremony.
While 88-year-old Mugabe has been criticised for turning what was once one of Africa's strongest economies into a basket case, Tsvangirai is now being publicly questioned over his dealings with women and money.