ON the outskirts of John Mhembere Village in Goromonzi lies an unkempt hut, which totters with age.
As fate would have it, the home is shattered and shredded like the life of the occupant himself.
The occupant is none other than yesteryear sungura music great Robson Kaitano.
A torn single bed, a stool polished smooth by years of use, a rickety coffee table and a floor scarred by shifting fire places, tell the story of a tormented life.
Kaitano (67) was popular in the 1970s with his hit songs — Deredzai Pfuma Vatezvara, Tambai Kongonya, Kuseni Seni and Hondo Yakarwiwa Kare but he is now living the life of a pauper.
In his heyday, Kaitano claims to have mentored and groomed “Madzibaba” Nicholas Zakaria, who is now popularly known as “Senior Lecturer”.
Kaitano, is divorced with five children — two boys and three girls. Two of them joined the great trek to South Africa while three remained in Zimbabwe.
Until last week, Kaitano lived the life of a hermit after the death of his only sibling, a sister 15 years ago.
What makes his situation worse, is that he is battling cancer and has been living on the benevolence of other villagers.
All hope is however, not lost as he has been offered a shoulder to cry on by First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa and her Angel of Hope Foundation.
Prior to the First Lady’s intervention last week, the erstwhile singer could neither walk nor rise from his bed where villagers said his sores attracted flies and made them part and parcel of his life.
Amai Mnangagwa has since taken him to Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals where he is being admitted.
The mother of the nation also got him accommodation in Harare where she will pay bills and rentals through Angel of Hope Foundation, for a year. She has also provided him with blankets, food, toiletries and other necessities.
Kaitano’s health woes started in 2017 and no one had come to his rescue since then. He did not have money for medication.
Speaking from his hospital bed, Kaitano said he was staying in Gweru when the leg started failing him forcing him to quit his job.
His eldest daughter Selinah took him to Goromonzi, where she left him in the custody of his aunt and uncle.
He was later taken to the hospital where he was diagnosed with Kaposi Sarcoma. When his uncle passed on, his aunt disappeared, leaving him to face life alone.
“I could not raise money for medication and my condition worsened. I was grounded in abject poverty and ill-health took a toll on me. I could not walk totally. Ringo Phiri and Mai Mukusha from our village, felt pity for me and they would take turns to help me with food, cleaning and doing laundry for me. I was helpless but I am grateful to the community who sometimes kept me going. Though two of my children would sometimes visit me, they could not help much since they are financially unstable. They would just visit and return to their homes,” he said.
As his condition deteriorated with no money for medical care, Kaitano said the community’s committee in Goromonzi visited him and saw that things were bad.
Even the yard was not well-manicured as he was bedridden and had turned into a bush.
Kaitano said he phoned Madzibaba Nicholas Zakaria and told him his challenges and Madzibaba informed other artistes, including Albert Nyathi.
“Nyathi visited me and he could not believe what he saw. I was just waiting to die alone. The leg was rotten because after being diagnosed I never went back to hospital because of cash woes.
“Noticing that things were not looking good, Nyathi took the plea to the First Lady who did not waste time and assigned a team from her office to my village,” she said.
“They first took me to my daughter Selina’s house in Tafara before I was taken to Parirenyatwa Hospital on March 4 where I am under the care of doctors and being treated all because of the First Lady’s love and kind heart. The First Lady saw that my daughter was also troubled and that there was no space where she is staying with her family, guess what she did? She got me a place to rent and through her Angel of Hope Foundation, she is paying all my rentals and bills for the whole year and also taking care of my hospital bills while I receive medical attention. She brought groceries and also supplied me with toiletries and blankets among other utilities. Amai is also catering for the expenses of the drugs needed.
Kaitano has nothing to show for his glorious music career although most musicians he groomed were doing well.
“I thought my life had ended but the First Lady gave me hope. I hope when I heal I will return to music so that I can fend for myself. I have so many unrecorded songs and it is my wish to record them,” he said.
The artiste said with the help he is getting from Amai Mnangagwa, he prays that one-day God will restore his health.
His daughter Selinah said; “My father fell ill for a long time with no one to rescue him. His leg was so painful that it rendered him unable to do anything. We took him to hospital once where he was diagnosed with Kaposi Sarcoma but could not afford to buy him the cancer drugs.
“I could not afford to raise the funds because my husband is unemployed and my siblings said they were not financially stable. I would be phoned by neighbours regularly to come and visit him after flies were hovering in the house. He could not rise and relieved himself where he was sleeping. Through the grace of God the First Lady came to his rescue and is now receiving medical attention. I thank the First Lady for what she did for my father.”
Selinah thanked the First Lady for catering for father’s rentals and bills.
“God is merciful. My father got to a point where he wished death upon himself. On the day he was taken to hospital he had earlier told me that he would not last until December, but today it’s a different story, he now has hope of getting back on his feet.
“I also thank musician Albert Nyathi for assisting us and took the message to the First Lady who in turn quickly came to my father’s rescue,” she said while fighting back tears.
Selinah’s husband Tawanda Musoso, felt humbled by the First Lady’s love saying as a son-in-law he failed to have him treated because of poverty even though he wished to do so.
Mr John Mhembere, a headman in the area said he was grateful for the assistance rendered to Kaitano by the mother of the nation.
“Kaitano used to stay with his aunt who later went away leaving him alone. Some villagers would occasionally visit him to assess the situation and how he lived. Later, Mrs Mukusha advised us as the village’s committee to visit him and see the sorry situation for ourselves. We thank the First Lady who is now assisting him because we all had lost hope,”
Mrs Koshiwe Mafuta, (Mrs Mukusha) said; “Kaitano and I share the same totem. I took him in as a brother and took care of him when he was ill. In 2019 things got bad and his main challenge was that he had no food and could not walk. As a village, we mobilised food for him and together with Mr Phiri and other villagers, would take turns to assist him. I am thankful to the First Lady for her help,” she said.
Mr Phiri said Kaitano was very sick and one needed a strong heart to enter the room he was living in because of the strong smell from the puss and blood coming from his wounds.
This is not the first time the First Lady has come to the rescue of artists the same way she does to vulnerable groups.
In 2019, she visited the late popular comedian Lazarus “Gringo” Boora, after undergoing surgery.
She gave him an assortment of foodstuffs and sat down for a one-on-one talk with the comedian.
Last year she met with living legends in the arts and entertainment industry and cushioned them from the effects of the Covid-19 lockdown by providing food hampers and other items.