Tafadzwa Zimoyo Senior lifestyle Reporter
She walks unaided, and wears an infectious smile, looking at her, one would think she is in her mid-60s.
With dimples still showing on her cheeks, while singing her favourite hymn from the Dutch Reformed Church — ‘Chinjikano Ndirero Tsime Reupenyu’, you would think she is a young choir girl, perfecting her voice for the final auditions.
Her name is Gogo Sharlot Chamburuka, a 95-year-old matriarch, who lives in Bulawayo with her daughter.
Born to Marita (Martha) and Andreas Chamburuka on September 15, 1925 in a family of seven, (Doreen, Anderson, Jahsen, Esther, Aina and Thomas), Gogo Chamburuka was the second born.
She lived through many difficult phases of history from World War 2, the Second Chimurenga, disease outbreaks, and now she has to endure the Covid-19 scare.
She sticks to her meal routines.
When The Herald Lifestyle arrived at her daughter Tariro Mashavave’s residence at Mbuya Dorcas Hospital in Harare, where she was visiting, Gogo Chamburuka was about to have breakfast.
“It is now twenty minutes to eleven and I am left with 20 minutes to have my breakfast,” she said.
“I have eaten my porridge with peanut butter at 8am.
“For breakfast, I always take tea with milk, plus one and half teaspoon of sugar, a boiled egg and three slices of bread. I do not take margarine, jam spread or peanut butter on bread. I never miss my timetable.”
Clad in a two-piece lilac costume and a white hat with a beaming smile, Gogo Chamburuka still vividly remembers dates as well as her place of birth at Morgenster Mission, where her father was a teacher.
When she sings her voice still comes out with a lot of energy like that of a little a girl auditioning for South Africa’s Idols talent search. Gogo Chamburuka gives credit to God for her long life.
“Let us have the interview first before I start having my tea,” she said. “I will sing and dance for you after I finish eating. It is all God’s grace. There were a lot of diseases which came during the liberation war, but my secret was following what we were told to do and praying to God.”
Gogo said her values kept her out of harm as she grew up.
“I looked after myself very well as a girl and I never moved around visiting growth points for entertainment or doing wild parties like shebeens,” she said.
“The only place I always sought solace was at a prayer mountain called Finger in Masvingo.”
Asked how she stays in shape, Gogo Chamburuka said she takes a walk every morning and always eats healthy.
“If I visit you, just prepare rice with peanut butter and chicken stew,” she said.
“I love Pepsi Lite drink and tea with milk.”
Gogo Chamburuka still has a razor sharp memory, she can recall events from her school days.
“I learnt at Morgenster Mission in Masvingo up to Standard Six. I was good at arithmetic. I remember my teacher then, Mr Cephas Napata, who pushed me to love arithmetic.
“My father wanted me to be a nurse, so one day there was a funeral and he instructed me to carry the corpse of a young girl.
“He was testing me and he said if you are strong, you can be a nurse. I didn’t like it because I never told him I was afraid of injections,” she said.
Gogo Chamburuka said she was scared of becoming a nurse, and at the end her sister Doreen took up the profession, while she chose teaching.
“As a teacher, I was so passionate about children and treated them like my own,” she said.
“I didn’t want to see them being beaten up or punished. The headmaster used to assign me somewhere else so that he could discipline the children while I am not there.”
Despite her age, Gogo Chamburuka is still a workaholic, a quality rooted in her history.
She also loves growing food crops.
“People still query why I am not resting,” she said.
“As a young girl I used to love farming and cattle herding. My father noticed that and used to give me space to take the projects in those areas as a young girl. I used to go to the mountains to pray with my friend Sylvia and my father would know about the routine.
“I was never a bad or mischievous girl. My father was good at baking bread and growing up we never used to buy bread from the shops.”
The ever-smiling Gogo Chamburuka was not even shy to show her teeth.
“I am only left with the lower frontline teeth,” she said.
“I no longer have other teeth, but I never miss my food. My diet is simple, a small handful of sadza and a matchbox size of meat.”
Gogo Chamburuka said she grew up listening to John White and later on was a fan of the late iconic singer Oliver Mtukudzi.
“I came from a Christian background,” she said. “We could sing hymnal songs. I loved the Matevera choir and John White.
“I was happy when my grandson Courage married Fungisayi Zvakavapano. Her music brings joy to my heart. I was a staunch fan of the late Tuku and I could sing-along to some of his songs. I love watching television especially gospel music and church sermons.”
Gogo Chamburuka turned 95 last Tuesday and still reminisces on her childhood memories. She met her husband Jordan Chamburuka in the early 50s and the two got married in 1953.
“We were blessed with four children — Tariro, Luxson (now late), Jelina who is a nurse and Precious, a former teacher,” she said.
“I remember when Queen Elizabeth came to Zimbabwe (around 1991) and visited Masvingo, I took my first born child and met her. There was a large crowd, but we managed to see her and I cherish the moments. My husband died in 1973.”
In September 2018, she cheated death when she survived an accident coming from her grandson Cuthbert’s wedding and the car was damaged beyond repair.
She still has minor pains on her left shoulder from the accident. Her daughter Tariro is the principal matron at Mbuya Dorcas Hospital. Gogo Chamburuka had visited her in February, but soon found herself failing to return to Bulawayo due to the Covid-19 lockdown that took effect in March. Gogo says she is often homesick.
“I came here for a visit, but now they said I can’t go home because of the lockdown,” she said.
“I miss home, although my daughter and grandchildren have been taking care of me very well. I am too smart, so sometimes while they have gone to work I clean my room. I even do thedishes. I still bath on my own.”
Gogo Chamburuka has 10 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.