By Luke Tamborinyoka
Almost all the MDC victims of State brutality and Zanu PF violence knew his office in the third floor at Harvest House. Brighton Matimba, the MDC’s head of Social Welfare had become an icon at the party headquarters.
From Mola to Chiweshe, from Mudzi to Plumtree, he had assisted them all to access medical and legal assistance at the expense of the party.
As the godfather of the party’s welfare department, where victims of State-sponsored brutality sought sanctuary, succor and comfort, it may be it was befitting that Brighton died on Fathers’ Day early morning on Sunday.
The MDC is in deep mourning of one who was more than just a man, but whose office had become a place of sanctuary for victims of Zanu PF and State brutality over the years.
All MDC cadres, most of whom have been arrested, assaulted or maimed over the years are familiar with office 309 in the third floor at the party headquarters at Harvest House. Every MDC cadre knows the importance of this office. Zimbabweans placed so much faith in Matimba’s office that even with gaping wounds and with blood oozing, they would come to Matimba’s office before they went to hospital.
Such was the compassion, empathy and big heart of the man that his office took precedence over a clinic or a law firm.
In the bloody violence of 2008 when thousands flooded harvest House for safety, they were largely Matimba’s burden and he discharged his duties with capacity and distinction and all of them were individually assisted and referred to the appropriate places for remedy and assistance.
Rape victims, those who were maimed or killed, he knew them all and in his office number 309 at harvest House, he kept a record of very victim and every incident of violence that has taken place in the country since 2000
I knew him as a friend and colleague in the struggle.
Following the biggest swoop on the party headquarters at harvest House in 2008, we were arrested together with three other party directors, many activists and politicians and spent four months on trumped up terrorism charges for which we were acquitted.
Even during our four months stint in Harare Remand prison in 2007, one of the factors that kept us going during those trying times was the calm but reassuring presence of Brighton Matimba. With him around in Cell C4 which he shared with murderers, robbers and rapists, it was always easy to believe that things would be alright.
Our wives would bring us food and they too ended up creating their own united community as they brought us food every day and spent their own hours together outside the prison perimeter fence. I used to call him Baba Carlton, in reference to his youngest son he loved so much and who is now doing Form One at Murehwa Mission in Mashonaland East.
Today, that young boy he loved so much, whom he visited only a week ago, is now an orphan.
The cruel irony is that it was him who always arranged that victims and orphans of MDC cadres got some kind of assistance from the party—and he was so competent at his job.
But now that he is gone, there might be no one to do it for his family and the children he has left behind.
Every week, President Tsvangirai meets with those that have been victims to ZANU PF violence at some secret location in Harare. As a leader with distinction, he has insisted on seeing all victims from across the country and to hear their gruesome tales to see where the party can intervene to assist.
The man who was responsible for co-coordinating this event and ensuring that the President meets all these people from across the country was none other than Brighton Matimba. Despite his own personal welfare challenges at the time of his death, he co-ordinated his last of the President’s meetings with victims only last Tuesday, four days before he died at a Harare hospital.
When President Tsvangirai insisted on sitting down with victims of violence from all over the country to listen to their stories every Tuesday, Matimba was always there with him because these are people he knew so well and with whom he had interacted and assisted over the years.
May be it was also befitting that he died at the Avenues clinic, one of the places where he had referred thousands of others who would receive medical assistance at the party’s expense. Just like others he had sent there in the 16 years in his job, he failed to make it and died at 0400hrs on Sunday morning.
It is unfortunate that soon when this struggle is over, this great man will not be there with us to share the happiness of the new Zimbabwe; the happiness that he worked so hard to achieve.
When the time comes when we shall all be crying the tears of joy after accomplishing our mission in this painful journey of the MDC’s struggle, it is difficult to fathom that Matimba will not be there with us. But when the story of our struggle is finally written, there ought to be a chapter on the small man with a huge heart, the quiet man with loud compassion.
I know you had issues, Brighton, at the time of your death.
I knew your fears and anxieties, which you were sharing with me only last Friday.
I am familiar with your experience in your last hours, having been on the brink of an emotional breakdown myself only a fortnight ago.
But I also know that the only tribute we can ever pay you and all those victims of political violence who always flooded your office is to complete this struggle and transform the lives of the people of this country.
It is unfortunate that the history of revolutions always remembers political leaders but is unkind to the technical officers who sweat it out every day, often-times driven by nothing but the unstinting commitment to service and sacrifice.
When the story of struggles is told, people like Brighton Matimba are always lucky to be a footnote; they are usually consigned to the periphery of the narrative when in fact they would have been also there on the frontline when danger beckoned.
The story of the MDC cannot be told without the mention of Matimba. But as I said, technical staff that serves in revolutions is always regarded in inhuman terms as a wage bill or as payroll statistics, not as human beings with emotions, needs and families.
But President Tsvangirai understands the value of workers, having spent half his life fighting for their cause and that is why he will attend the funeral and burial of this great, unheralded man.
Go well brother and I assure you, Brighton; we shall deliver on the national mandate for which you toiled for almost two decades and invested blood, sweat and tears to water the tree of the people’s struggle.
Lastly, it is always a great gamble for us mortal beings to vouch for each other, to say so and so will go to Heaven.
But in the case of Brighton Matimba, it is a gamble and a risk that I will personally take.
If good people who pray to the Lord, who love and do good to others will enjoy the coveted dividend of eternal life, I am certain and can declare with confidence that Brighton Matimba, this man I knew so well, is definitely on his way to Heaven where God the Almighty keeps his beloved ones.
Go well, son of our struggle and rest in peace, Samanyanga.
Luke Tamborinyoka doubles as spokesperson to MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and the party’s Director of Communications. He writes here in his personal capacity.