Category Archives: Zambia

Sally Hayfron Mugabe

I have spent the last two years of my life learning, thinking and writing about SALLY HAYFRON MUGABE. I have absolutely fallen in love with this woman. It all started when we were in Zambia in 2006 working on BAD TIMING. We went up to Victoria Falls and everyone was cautioning us not to cross over to the Zimbabwean side. They told us the economic and political situation was desperate; the people were dangerous. Staying at TAITA FALCON LODGE, the owner and his wife told us about how Robert Mugabe, the President of Zim, had changed after his wife died. “The death of Sally Hayfron was the death of Zimbabwe,” they said.

The romantic in me latched onto that story and wouldn’t let go. Imagine that. A love so powerful, an entire nation knew when it was gone. It took a couple of years before we could really start looking into the story. My writing partner and I were busy on the Zambia projects and then THE LAND OF REFUGE (about the Mormon Colonies in Mexico). We had to finish those before we could delve into the story about Sally. Being the dyed-in-the-wool romantic, I have always believed that “more is possible” when you find the “right person.” Would this story be an example of the real power of love?

After two years (and 120 pages), I can honestly say this story is even more amazing than I had imagined. Born in Ghana in 1931, SALLY HAYFRON was a teen when her homeland was gaining its freedom from the colonial British empire. A bright, inspiring, compassionate woman, Sally fell in love with Robert Mugabe, a visiting professor from what was then known as Southern Rhodesia. At that time, about 5 million blacks were governed by 270,000 whites. They were not allowed to vote. They were restricted in where they could live and work. They had virtually no schools. And, they were not allowed to own land designated for “whites only,” which comprised over 45% of the nation (about 90% of the best land).

Sally willingly went to live in this land, to help the citizens gain their freedom. Robert soon rose to prominence in Rhodesia’s National Democratic Party. As civil unrest grew, whites retaliated by electing Ian Smith as Prime Minister. Smith promptly declared independence from Britain and jailed all opposition leaders, including Robert Mugabe, who spent 11 years in prison. As Sally traveled the globe seeking support for his freedom, a bloody civil war consumed the country. Finally, in 1980, Southern Rhodesia was able to hold its first free election and Robert Mugabe won it in a landslide.

Sally was a tireless champion of the common people. Over the next decade, she encouraged the construction of schools and hospitals (many in places they’d never been before). The more I learned about Sally, the more amazed I was with all she had accomplished. Especially when I learned she had suffered from kidney problems most of her adult life and spent the last EIGHT YEARS of her life on dialysis. She traveled the world with a medical assistant in tow to manage her health care. Sally died on January 27, 1992 at the age of 60. Ironically, she was born in the first African country to gain independence from Britain and died in the last.

To this day, people in Zimbabwe write songs about AMAI SALLY (Mother Sally) and how they wish she were still alive and caring for her people. So do I.

(Photo above: Robert and Sally Mugabe depart from Andrews Air Force Base, 26 September 1983)

The Last Laugh

Today, Pamela Jo found this interesting article on Robert Mugabe in The Daily Post. Here’s the story – possibly false, but with a whiff of truth – no Zanu-PF spokesman will tell you about his boss, Robert Mugabe. Back in 1958, when he was teaching in Ghana, Mugabe met fellow teacher and Ghanaian national Sally Hayfron and fell in love. He took Sally back to what was then Rhodesia, and the couple were married in St Peter’s Catholic Church in Harare.
Many difficult years later, Mugabe became President of newly independent Zimbabwe, and the couple moved into Harare’s majestic State House. sallyhayfronstamp Before long Mugabe took measures that echoed those of dictators all over the world. He robbed the national exchequer, and opened a bank account in Switzerland with the proceeds – some millions of dollars, apparently. However, anxious to avoid exposure by the western press, he cunningly put the account in Sally’s name.

Sally died of kidney failure in 1992 – a lasting pity because she had been a restraining influence on the man. But it left him free to marry his South African mistress, Grace. Then, naturally enough, he moved to take control of Sally’s Swiss account. But no. It was explained to him that under Ghanaian law the property of a wife goes, on her death, to her family. Not to her husband.

Sally’s Ghanaian relatives got the lot. Mugabe is said to have broken every window in State House.

Desperately Seeking Sally

Today, we’re back on the story of Sally Francesca Hayfron Mugabe, the first wife of Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe. The more I read about Sally, the more I adore her. I think she would have been an amazing person to know. Almost everything you read says she was a tempering influence on him. When she was alive and in his life, she could settle him down, make him be more reasonable, mitigate much of the vindictive anger that he used against others. Her love calmed him, sweetened him.

She was born into a powerful and political family in Ghana. She was a good student, loved politics and trained to be a teacher in Ghana. sallyhayfron Sally was in her formative teen years during the period that Ghana struggled to separate from Britain. She was 24 years old in 1957, the year Ghana gained its independence. In 1958, she became entranced with the young man from Rhodesia who taught African history at the famous Achimoto School. Founded in 1927, the Achimoto School was famous for its all-inclusive philosophy, teaching boys and girls, blacks and whites in the same way, at the same time, from the beginning. The young Mugabe shared his frustration at his country’s subservience to Britain. He wanted to bring freedom to his people. Sally became his most ardent supporter. They were married in 1961.

During the next 20 years, they helped lead Rhodesia to become the independent nation of Zimbabwe (1980), they both endure imprisonment for political reasons, they lost their only son to malaria, Sally came to known as Amai (mother) for her work in Zimbabwe, Robert started an affair (and later married) Grace Marufu.

Poet’s Surprises Announced


Public Service – Las Vegas Sun
Breaking News Reporting – The New York Times Staff
Investigative Reporting – David Barstow of The New York Times
Explanatory Reporting – Bettina Boxall and Julie Cart of the Los Angeles Times
Local Reporting – Detroit Free Press Staff and Ryan Gabrielson and Paul Giblin of the East Valley Tribune, Mesa, AZ
National Reporting – St. Petersburg Times Staff
International Reporting – The New York Times Staff
Feature Writing – Lane DeGregory of the St. Petersburg Times
Commentary – Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post
Criticism – Holland Cotter of The New York Times
Editorial Writing – Mark Mahoney of The Post-Star, Glens Falls, NY
Editorial Cartooning – Steve Breen of The San Diego Union-Tribune
Breaking News Photography – Patrick Farrell of The Miami Herald
Feature Photography – Damon Winter of The New York Times


FictionOlive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (Random House)
DramaRuined by Lynn Nottage
HistoryThe Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family by Annette Gordon-Reed (W.W. Norton & Company)
BiographyAmerican Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham (Random House)
PoetryThe Shadow of Sirius by W.S. Merwin (Copper Canyon Press)
General NonfictionSlavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon (Doubleday)
MusicDouble Sextet by Steve Reich, premiered March 26, 2008 in Richmond, VA (Boosey & Hawkes)

A shout out to Ryan Gabrielson for winning a Pulitzer Prize … he was the reporter who covered the Maricopa Community College District during the whole scandal and retribution period. He was a great reporter. Congrats to him for all of his hard work!

Sad News from Zambia

Monica Mvula, Zambia

Monica Mvula, Zambia

Yesterday, I had an exciting interview with Emily Dickinson scholar Martha Nell Smith. I woke up eager for the day because of an upcoming meeting with a film distributor. And, then, it all turned on a dime. An email from the director of BAD TIMING, Jabbes Mvula wrote about his younger sister, Monica.

She was wonderful when we were shooting the film. She let us use her car and her cell phone. A teacher with a shy smile, she helped us located children for several key scenes in the movie. She brought us the delightful Alisam Piri (see below). She was instrumental in completing the film.

We got word she died last week. “I wish she had seen the film screened and distributed in Zambia,” her elder brother wrote. Me, too. I suddenly felt the pressure of time, the weight of decisions, and the importance of completing creative projects. I am deeply saddened to hear of her passing.


A post from two years ago … while we were in Africa.

AlisamPiriToo.jpgBY CYNDI GREENING, PRODUCER, LUSAKA, ZAMBIA – On Friday, we had a wonderful shooting experience. The folks a ZNBC, ZNIS and ZAMNET allowed us to use a soundproof stage to shoot the classroom scenes in the film. With all of the children there, the teacher and the policeman, we really needed the space. It also allowed us to build a lot more motion into the shots. We were able to use the dolly and the glidecam. We could have used a few more area lights. Of course all of the equipment means nothing if you don’t have good actors. We had some wonderful child actors. The children are so natural on camera; they aren’t self-conscious at all. In fact, they barely seem self-aware. One of my favorites was little Alisam Piri. I learned how a Zambian child indicates he doesn’t know what to do. I asked him to write his name on a piece of paper. He quickly complied. When I asked him to write his numbers, he turned his hand palm up and waved it from side to side. Monica, his teacher, said, “He doesn’t know his numbers yet.” He was a great little actor. We even made him cry on cue.


When they were acting, Jabbes promised them each a very special present. He gave them each a brand new MCC pencil of their very own. They were very excited with that gift. I can’t imagine American actors being satisfied with a pencil. Jabbes has been doing a good job with the actors. I’m surprised how well they take direction. He tells them what he’s trying to achieve and they respond so well. Even the more seasoned actors have been really great about giving him what he wants.

Universal Remote Productions

ur_artwork_sm.jpgWhen I was younger, I read an article about Human Success Dysfunction (that’s my term for it). It was during one of those phases when I was doing a lot of self-help reading. This particular syndrome, HSD, talked about how children will sometimes self-sabotage their ability to succeed to avoid out-doing their parents and making them “feel bad” because their is child getting “more” than they may have been able to get. There was also a section on the HSD parents, some of whom undermine their children to ensure they are not successful so the parents can remain in power, continue to have the wisdom and be in charge. All very unpleasant. The healthy alternative was that people do what they’re best at and not worry about that competitive thing within the family but simply celebrate each other’s gifts and successes.

So, much to my delight, I get to announce that Alec (my smart, talented, handsome boy) and his friend, Pacino, have started a production company in New York. successfulalec.jpgThe company, Universal Remote Productions specializes in digital media production and post-production. They edit, do 3D design and production, motion graphics and flash for web. They have a lot of contemporary music connections (because Pacino used to be in a successful touring band) and a lot independent film connections. One of the projects they worked on was Three Thug Mice. Now, they’re on to their own thing. It’s exciting for me to be able to write about what the guys are working on. Pamela Jo and I have been helping with paperwork and web spaces and all of that mundane business stuff that no one likes to do (not even us) but we want to be supportive. I wish them the best of luck and all the success in the world! I’m only a little envious.

Multi-Angle Editing in FCP



Last week, Alec and I went to California to visit with Jason and talk post-production shop. It was a Friday evening and the three of us were sitting in Jason’s editing studio talking about things like multi-angle editing and color grading. Jason generally has a rant about how much better AVID is than FCP because that’s what he uses at work. At home, he uses FCP like the rest of us financially-challenged filmmakers. He was showing us what he’d learned at an Apple presentation about multi-angle editing. They’ve been touting multi-angle editing for a while but I’d never seen it used. He stepped through it and I was excited. He said (and I agreed) that there wasn’t all that much need for it in his type of work.

However, while we were in Zambia, the National Arts Council brought five (5) Native Storytellers in from other regions in the country. All five spoke a different language. There were about 25 children making up the audience. This was definitely NOT a highly-controlled nor highly-choreographed recording session. On top of that, this was the second weekend in Zambia so the student crew were all continuing to build their skills in all of the different pieces of equipment. To maximize our odds, we ran four (4) cameras during the shoot. Two cinematographers were on the storyteller, one was on the audience and one was handheld. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity on a different continent. So, next week, I’ll be cutting the Zambian Storytellers using this method. I can hardly wait. If you want to check it out, you will want to read Steve Martin’s well-illustrated and very clear tutorial on Final Cut Pro Multi-Angle editing.

YouTube FilmZambia Video on 50 Cent Scores

While we were on location in Mtendere, Lusaka, Zambia, a tweaked out guy came up to the crew and asked them to deliver a message to Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson. The entire clip is only 54 seconds long. It’s funny as heck. Here we were in one of the poorest sections of Lusaka where hardly anyone had a television, virtually no one had a computer and many folks didn’t even seem to have electricity and this guy seemed to know all about the U.S. Rapper, 50 Cent. He wanted us to let him know that 50 Cent had messed everyone up and that he was going to come to America and get him for what he had done. We posted this video. In less than three days, it had over a thousand hits. A thousand hits. Just goes to show, people just love to laugh.

Johnny Chung Lee & Purdue

Way back in April of 2005, I did a blogpost about a Johnny Chung Lee‘s $14 Steadicam. Lee gave the full instructions for how to build his poor-man’s steadicam using pieces and parts that could be picked up at any hardware store. It is the steadicam that Jacob built to take to Zambia. We used it there and left it behind with the Zambian National Arts Council. For the mechanically challenged, chronically lazy, or only moderately-poor filmmaker, Lee even offered a fully built version for only $39.95. A great little tool that was most useful.

So, earlier this month, I’m at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, meeting with students and going over their interactive media projects. One group is working on a Nintendo-based tool that teaches high school students the slope-intercept formula in a game format in preparation for the exit examination. While talking with them, we got onto the idea of full-immersion gaming. One of the students was really excited about this fellow from Carnegie Mellon University who was developing immersion techniques using the Wii Remote. I started digging around and discover that this immersion innovator is the $14 Steadicam guy, Johnny Chung Lee. The YouTube video sure got my imagination going.

Internet Movie Database


We’re experiencing a bit of “good timing” with the film Zambian BAD TIMING. The film is now listed in the Internet Movie Database (IMDb). So far, only the title is in … they say the actual names / credits take another week to ten days to get updated. It’s so exciting to finally see everything coming together and the people in the film getting acknowledged for their work. Everyone involved with this project gave a solid month of their life in Zambia to get this film made. The crew also spent six months before the project in training and preparing for the project. Following the shoot in Zambia, the crew spent another couple of months helping with the rough cut … and several more continued another year with the revised cuts.

We’ve been test screening the film with small groups and the response has been really terrific. When you edit a film, you watch it thousands of times and lose all perspective on it. You think it keeps getting better but it’s so subjective. The really exciting thing is that people who know nothing about the film, know nothing about Zambia, know nothing about the production challenges are understanding and liking the film. They’re liking the good people, disliking the bad people and are getting really involved in the story. It’s a very satisfying feeling having people watch the film and enjoy it. I can hardly wait for the Zambians to see it.

Grace Marufu Mugabe

gracemugabe.jpgBefore Sally Hayfron Mugabe died, her husband had already begun a relationship with his secretary Grace Marufu. Grace was 40 years younger than Mugabe and, unlike Sally, was mercenary and materialistic. To open the way for himself, Mugabe sent Grace’s husband and son on a permanent diplomatic mission to China. Ultimately, Grace and Robert had three children, two boys and one girl. While Zimbabwe struggles under horrific inflation rates, as the life expectancy drops by decades, as the unemployment rate nears 80%, Grace Marufu Mugabe is notorious for her lavish spending sprees in Europe. Sally loved her African heritage and always dressed in traditional clothing. Grace is one of the nouveau riche, insulated in a cocoon of her own self-gratification. Could these two women possibly be more different?

Sally Hayfron Mugabe

Sally Hayfron MugabeInter-library loan finally located a copy of the biography of Sally Hayfron Mugabe. We have been trying to find anything on the first wife of Robert Mugabe and have been quite unsuccessful. There just isn’t much written material out there. I found a 16-page booklet that the Yale University Library would not lend out. The book they’ve located was written by ZANU-PF, the Zimbabwean political party of Comrade Robert Mugabe so I am anticipating that it is not going to be all that revelatory. Sally was born in Ghana, the third daughter of a well-to-do family, she was named by and for her grandmother. Ghana was the first African nation to achieve independence (in 1957). Zimbabwe was one of the last. Born in 1931, Sally died in 1992 of kidney failure. Her only son died at the age of four from cerebral malaria. Everything I read about her (non-propaganda) indicates she was an amazing woman — compassionate, caring, gentle, generous — how did she end up married to the despotic Mugabe and how could she live with herself knowing how he was? Since the book that is coming was written by Mugabe’s political party, I’m not expecting remarkable insights.

Mugabe Mansion

mugabeaerial.jpgUPDATE: I’ve gotten several emails and comments saying this mansion is not Mugabe’s … the funny thing is that I’ve been told it’s really in Singapore … another one says South Africa … the most recent one says it’s Versailles. Everyone has an opinion about whose mansion it really is and they’re all adamant that they’re right. So, I dug around and found several newspaper articles with an aerial view of Mugabe’s mansion. I got a copy of the Andrew Meldrum (a journalist who lived in Zimbabwe for over twenty years) memoir WHERE WE HAVE HOPE to discern more about the Mugabe Mansion (dubbed Graceland by many since it was built for wife, Grace Marufu). I read Alec Russell’s BIG MEN, LITTLE PEOPLE and I got a copy of a book published by ZANU-PF entitled SALLY MUGABE, WOMAN WITH A MISSION. What I can conclusively say is that the image above does appear to be the aerial view of Mugabe’s Mansion and the photos below may (or may not) be of his mansion but they certainly COULD be given the size and opulence of the structure outside of Harare.

ORIGINAL POST: Supposedly, the opulent mansion to the right is the home of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe. Located near the national capital of Harare, the mansion is an affront to many because of the desperate lives led by the majority of Zimbabweans. They currently have the highest inflation rate in the world. The life expectancy for all the citizens has dropped by decades under Mugabe’s despotic rule. Today, we met a woman who had been born in South Africa and raised in Zimbabwe. She and her family left Zimbabwe shortly after Mugube’s rise to power. A lovely woman with a smooth voice and generous heart, she graciously gave her voice talents for a sequence of the film. Ultimately, we ended up talking about all of the south African nations. We talked about Sally Mugabe, the early years following independence and the succession of majority rule. We enjoyed the African art and furnishings in their home. mugabemansion.gifWe talked about the art of the Ndebele and their feud with the Shona. An afternoon meeting literate and learned people is always enlightening. Spending the following days exploring those ideas with colleagues or partners and seeing where those discoveries can lead is a creative joy. I don’t know if it is the contrast of my life with the life of the average Zimbabwean’s that has me feeling so grateful this evening. Maybe it’s the joy of preparing the Zambian film for its screening in Lusaka. I guess I don’t need to know. All I really want is to be present as present as possible to the gifts of my life … and there are many! And, unlike Comrade Mugabe, I didn’t need to destroy anyone to have them.

Beth McDonald Woman of the Year Dinner

cyndibethsm.jpgLast evening, (Thursday, March 6, 2008) Beth McDonald, Schumacher Mercedes and the folks at KEZ threw a celebratory dinner for the twelve Woman of the Year nominees. It was held at the Hyatt Gainey Ranch in North Scottsdale. The Hyatt is always wonderful. Great ambiance, great food, great service. The only thing that could make it better is if they held it in the mineral pool at Spa Avania. Just kidding, of course. I kept telling the other nominees that there would be a swimsuit competition later in the evening. Now, mind you, some of these women established orphanages in Afghanistan, escaped violence in Bosnia and faced personal danger on streets serving the homeless. But, mention a public viewing in a bathing suit and they tremble with (mock) fear. It was funny.

tammycyndi.jpgNominees were allowed to bring three of their friends to the event. Most everyone seemed to have invited the person who nominated them for the honor (I, of course, invited my nominator, Pamela Jo). Each table had two nominees and their pals (MCC Media Arts professor Jeanette Roe and FilmZambia-supporter Tammy Fannin rounded out my party) AND two representatives of KEZ. pj_jroe_cg.jpgWe were joined by the delightful Smokey Rivers (former on-air personality and current programming director) and the gracious, gregarious Kevin Gossett. We ended up in a fun conversation about KILTS (yes, he used to wear a kilt) and the winds that whip off the Great Lakes. He grew up in Indiana, so I got more insight into Purdue University.

The event is sponsored by 99.9 FM and Schumacher Mercedes Benz. We received an evening and dinner at the Hyatt, a day at Spa Avania and (Alec’s and my favorite) a great Mercedes Benz model car built to 1/18 scale with working doors, hood and trunk. The model is a very durable and accurate metal Benz and, as it is no doubt intended, motivates me yearn for one of my very own. michaelcyndi.jpgThe Schumacher folks were at the table beside us. Mr. and Mrs. Werner Schumacher were in attendance and generously presented winner, Zema Kovac, with an oversize check for $2500. Everyone was teasing about wanting to go with her when she went to the ATM. Young Michael Schumacher was there with the folks. The other nominees were given (in addition to all of the other prizes), a crisp Ben Franklin. I was being silly and saying, “Look what I got for the night.” Michael teased back and said, “No, that’s for the whole year.” Funny. Nothing I love more than a great sense of humor. (In my internet search, I discovered there’s a Formula One driver by the name of Michael Schumacher who is considered the greatest driver alive. Not the same fellow, but interesting just the same.)

We had a great evening. Arizona Supreme Court Justice Ruth McGregor spoke about her path from entering college to get her teaching certificate to her current position on the Arizona Court. She shared funny stories about her college days and early days as a female attorney. I was fascinated with her story and thought, “Heck, someone should nominate her for woman of the year.” So, if you know a courageous woman that you think deserves the honor, go to KEZ to Nominate for the Beth McDonald Woman of the Year.

Bush in Africa

President Bush is currently on a five-nation trip to Africa. He is visiting Benin, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana and Liberia. There is some criticism for avoiding the hotspots (Darfur, Kenya, DRC). According to the official press, the US will increase total assistance to Africa to $8.7 billion by 2010, double the level of assistance in 2004. We’re aiming for a new kind of partnership, they say.

Prior to leaving, Bush previewed a movie trailer for a 15-minute documentary produced in partnership between Warner Bros and PEPFAR (the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief). The trailer, which will appear in movie theaters later this year, will direct viewers to visit the website to view the full documentary entitled SAVING LIVES, CREATING HOPE. It is, of course, a PR piece to paint a bright spot on the Bush legacy for his (albeit eleventh-hour) efforts in this area.

bushAfrica.jpgI find myself wondering if they watched the Tanzanian documentary, INTO THE LIGHT, that Paul Hepker scored. That film was about the AIDs crisis in that country. Probably doesn’t have the same gloss as the Hollywood film told from the administration’s point of view. Probably. I won’t be able to say until I see them both. Why does all of this bring the 1997 film WAG THE DOG to mind (Dustin Hoffman as producer who manufactures cinema events to camouflage the failings of the president)? I don’t if there’s another president who has had a more scandal-plagued administration than George Bush (43) so a feel good film can’t be all bad.

Speaking of can’t be all bad, the other thought I’m having is about the $8.7 billion in aid to Africa (DOUBLE the 2004 level). Current estimates are that the war in Iraq is costing the US over $195 million per day. At that rate, the entire African aid package is spent by the US in Iraq in just 45 days. Forty-five days of war in the Middle East equals the aid to an entire continent of Africa for one year.

Now, granted $8.7 billion isn’t chump change. But, forgive me if I don’t get all happy-clappy, link arms and sing Kumbaya around the campfire.

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