Interview with Zimbabwean Writer, Pearl Matibe

Photo Credit: From Pearl Matibe Family Archives

Photo Credit: From Pearl Matibe Family Archives

Brief Biography: Pearl Matibe is an award-winning dynamic speaker with brilliant speeches that share her amazing story of courage, culture, grace, identity, resilience and triumph that molded her life and inspire an audience. She belongs in a group of influential speakers that have their own distinctive flair.

Today, author of ‘Defining Pearl’ is fiercely loyal to the advancement of a 21st century global cultural intelligence. With over 18 years’ experience in the hospitality industry she is certified in Operational Analysis by Cornell University’s Hotel School. She is a member of Toastmasters International and focuses her time on advisory work to varied Boards of Directors around the world. Her willingness to speak fair and square on causes she cares about makes her a respected advocate.

She is passionate about travel and remains a firm proponent of ‘Live your ideals!’

Geosi Gyasi: Let me begin this way; were you a privileged child growing up?

Pearl Matibe: I didn’t choose my class status. I grew up with a colonial white upper-class lifestyle. I’m of the opinion that you are aware of privilege when you see what you lack. I’m privileged from the point of view that I grew up with parents who both had higher than average incomes, my mom was a nurse and my father was a business owner and made more than just a decent living. I went to what one of my Biology teachers, Mrs. Jenkins, referred to as La crème de la crème of Zimbabwe’s schools with a ‘debutante-like’ education where a significant portion of my peers were from socially connected families that had a significant amount of wealth and family history – Martindale, Bishopslea & Arundel Schools. I wasn’t given extras as a child, although I do know I was not expected to do chores. I’ve worked very hard in my life to get where I’m at; it was not handed to me. I like to use my privilege positively: to inspire others when I can and, more importantly, listen when I need to. After all, we’re all privileged in one way and less privileged in others. I’m glad to say that I’m privileged to know how to be hospitable and making sure everyone has a place at the table.

Geosi Gyasi: Some political critics claim Zimbabwe as Mugabe’s. In other sense, can you separate Mugabe from Zimbabwe?

Pearl Matibe: Mugabe has said “…let me keep my Zimbabwe…” He concedes that death will separate him from Zimbabwe when he said “Only God who appointed me will remove me.” It’s his country – that’s about it. It’s my country too! Zimbabweans love their country more than they love Robert Mugabe. For a stable and prosperous Zimbabwe it will be essential to have a re-energized and more engaged civil society.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you think Zimbabwe’s independence did any good to the people of Zimbabwe?

Pearl Matibe: It would be re-miss of me to make a blanket assessment of Independence. Zimbabwe’s Independence Day should not be de-valued: it’s a patriotic thing to celebrate our sentiments for the country of our birth. However, it is clear that millions of Zimbabweans have still to enjoy the bounteous benefits of Independence. An even bigger gap exists today between the haves and the have-nots than did in white-rule. In a country where there is no freedom of expression, where you cannot be critical of your government without fear of persecution, where its notorious human rights record is in the spotlight globally, where you ruthlessly suppress your people, in light of this, how can we say independence did good to our people? A key ideal of the liberation war was to remove suppressive laws, yet POSA (Public Order and Security Act) is extremely repressive in today’s Zimbabwe. Some might call Independence from the pan to the fire.

Geosi Gyasi: Is the current situation in Zimbabwe that bad?

Pearl Matibe: Yes, it’s progressively worse than at any other time in the country’s history. Besides the human rights abuses, a desperate leadership is selling Zimbabwe’s future to China in exchange for short-term help which will have an enduring negative impact on the country’s future resources.   Hope lies in establishing new relationships to safe-guard the country’s future with an engaged civil society. The country has an unprecedented opportunity to jump on some incredible solutions for its challenges.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you or would you return to Zimbabwe?

Pearl Matibe: Regrettably, it is not yet time for me to return to Zimbabwe. Going back to Zimbabwe to be arrested? No. I have an obligation to write about what I see; if I did this in Zimbabwe the repercussions are clear to me. Everyone has a human right to live a life free of fear.   I’m a reasonable person I feel that where I reside, where I wish to visit, or work or where I might choose to go on my own is simply a personal preference and no-one should infringe on my personal freedom.  I would not enjoy freedom, yet, in Zimbabwe.

Geosi Gyasi: Is it appropriate to state that you fled Zimbabwe?

Pearl Matibe: Faced with risking death or fleeing? I made a quiet exit.

Geosi Gyasi: Your most recent book, ‘Defining Pearl…a precious difference’, was self-published through FriesenPress. Why did you decide to self-publish?

Pearl Matibe: Traditional publishing has a tendency of controlling all aspects of book design, pricing, title and content. You could say I needed the freedom to speak. I did my research on the different options open to me to achieve my goals for this book. I was committed to the investment of my time and what it takes. FriesenPress has Friesens Corporation as their parent company that has printed everything from the Harry Potter series to the Oxford Dictionary so I was confident that I was in good hands with sufficient “tradition” in their over 100 years of experience.

Geosi Gyasi: Why a memoir at this point in your life?

Pearl Matibe: It was at a point in my life when I’d completed the journey into the heart of who I am. A memoir is very different to an autobiography which is a story that covers an entire trajectory of a person’s life. My memoir is simply one period of my life. I’ve had a unique vantage point, a unique voice, a unique story for that aspect of my life.

Geosi Gyasi: Will you continue to write non-fiction or memoirs?

Pearl Matibe: Both, although I have a preference for memoir writing. People might think it’s easy. After all, it’s your life and you know the story, yes? It’s not a simple thing and it certainly is not easy. I’ve already begun etching out my next book. I feel that no matter what I write about, if I write well, it should have universal resonance because my experiences have been priceless.

Geosi Gyasi: How long did it take you to write Defining Pearl?

Pearl Matibe: More than 10-years. Reason being that the first few years I was making contemporaneous entries in my personal journal not knowing if I’d be alive the next day. I did not intend it for publication back then. It also took a whole lot more than simply digging into family photos and diary entries to write my story.

Geosi Gyasi: Considering the ordeal and humiliation you went through under the government of Mugabe, were there times you wept writing your memoir?

Pearl Matibe: I felt a profound sense of loss. A certain strength got me to America. State-sponsored violence is known to induce PSTD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) the effects of which can be devastating. It pulled at my heart-strings to remember those that had few or no options to freedom: a life without fear.

Geosi Gyasi: What do you want readers to take from your memoir?

Pearl Matibe: The point of my memoir isn’t to get back at people; it’s another way to exploring my past and reflecting on my life, to shine light on a greater truth, to help others who may be in similar situations; to inspire. Ultimately, I hope readers will have enjoyed a good story; worth telling.


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