Cletus Mushanawani Features Correspondent
It has been said that the death of one’s own child is the worst, the most painful, loss that a human can face. Death is a terrible enemy, and it wounds all of us in one way or another.
Just like in the Bible when Jesus’ mother, Mary, grieved over the death of her son, Gogo Esnath Chashaya-Mapfuvamhandu of Dahwa Village in Mt Darwin area of Mashonaland Central has over the last decades lost six of her eight children including her husband.
To the outside world, Gogo Mapfuvamhandu is a poor and heartbroken widow living next to one of the best-run medical institutions in Zimbabwe – Karanda Mission Hospital.
Agony and despair is written all over her face. Where to get the next meal to feed her family of 15 which includes her visually impaired and diabetic brother-in-law is a daily burden.
Losing the family’s breadwinners has left her vulnerable. She too now feels like an orphan. Gogo Mapfuvamhandu’s dream of relaxing at home at the end of a tough life of toiling at Karanda Mission Hospital has dissipated like morning dew as she now carries the unenviable burden of looking after her extended family.
She is not alone in this situation as her neighbours also lost breadwinners to HIV-related ailments. Most of the villagers’ children have dropped out of school, painting a gloomy picture for the village.
Handouts from well-wishers and neighbours have kept the Mapfuvamhandu family going despite the calamities that continue to befall them. However, something unforgettable happened recently in her life.
It was a visit by the First Lady Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa on Wednesday this week that took her by surprise. Taking time off her busy schedule, the First Lady had an hour-long interaction with the widow and her neighbours.
The First Lady’s visit to the Mapfuvamhandus was a pleasant surprise. Heads turned as her convoy snaked to the homestead. Most of the people in the convoy were in the dark about Amai Mnangagwa’s destination.
When most thought that the mother of the nation was headed to one of the village mansions, her convoy stopped a few metres from the hovels which the Mapfuvamhandus call their home.
Like a true African woman, Amai Mnangagwa wrapped a cloth around her and walked into the homestead. The “traditional” singing and waist wiggling associated with the welcoming of dignitaries of the First Lady’s stature was not there; but awestruck villagers could hardly move an inch to welcome the strangers from Harare.
The First Lady’s gesture of spending time with the Dahwa villagers brought a beaming smile to Gogo Mapfuvamhandu who hardly remembers her age.
This rekindled vivid memories of the good old times when one of her late celebrity sons, Richard Mapfuvamhandu, used to spoil her with groceries and gifts.
Her son used to front the now defunct Nyaminyami Sounds which produced great hits like “Fundo Inokosha”, “Ndiani Apisa Moto”, “Zvirinani Tirambane”, “Dhora Rangu” and “Hupenyu Hautengwi”.
Having munched the buttered bread, Gogo Mapfuvamhandu had the energy to mimic one of Richard’s popular songs, “Fundo Inokosha”.
Gogo Mapfuvamhandu’s life story is just a tragedy. Mother nature has been cruel to her as death continued robbing her of her loved ones. As if that is not enough, one of her surviving daughters, Tsitsi, has developed a mental illness and needs her mother’s care all the time, day and night.
“I was blessed with eight children, but I only have two daughters left. All my sons – Richard, Aaron, Moses, Joshua and Levi – are gone. Richard, the most famous of them, died in 1993, leaving behind his own family,” she said.
“Life has been so tough. At one time, we used to survive on royalties from Richard’s music, but this is now all history because we last received a cent from his recording company years back. The situation was compounded by daughter’s mental illness. She is the one who used to travel to Harare to collect the money.
“I have nothing in my granary to feed my big family. I could not do anything in the fields this season because of my daughter’s mental illness. I am there to take of her. It’s all gloomy here. I don’t know why I am being punished like this.”
Just like the rich message in his late son, Richard’s song, “Fundo Inokosha”, Gogo Mapfuvamhandu is grieving over her juvenile granddaughter who dropped out of school in Form Three.
“My son penned a song highlighting the importance of education, but I think he must be turning in his grave as one of his own is now idle at home. If someone could sponsor my granddaughter to pursue her education. I know she will be someone in life. Without any education you are doomed. How I wish God would turn back the hands of time.”
Despite her advanced age, Gogo Mapfuvamhandu has not resigned to fate.
“If we could get a pump, we would venture into horticulture. We cannot continue waiting for handouts when we can work for ourselves. I have a garden which can be very productive if we get a pump to help us irrigate our crops. We have a ready market at the hospital and the nearby business centre.”
In her conversation with Gogo Mapfuvamhandu and the Minister of State for Mashonaland Central, Advocate Martin Dinha, the First Lady said as the mother of the nation, it was her duty to provide for the less privileged.
“We have a lot of work to do. This is not an isolated case. Many less privileged people across the country need our care and support. We strive to provide for them especially the orphaned and vulnerable children,” she said.
Adv Dinha chipped in: “Your visit to this marginalised area (machonyonyo) took us by surprise Amai. We least expected it and this shows that you are a caring mother. You have a mammoth task to provide for all your children. I know you have the stamina and willpower to change the people’s lives.”
Amai Mnangagwa later donated foodstuffs to the Mapfuvamhandu family after Gogo had told her that the food they were left with had been sourced from Karanda Mission Hospital the previous week.
“God is great. I had never dreamt of sitting next to the First Lady, let alone sharing a cup of tea with her. I will forever cherish this day. Thank you Amai for remembering us in this remote area.
“I will forever cherish your visit. I have found joy and comfort in my heart because I have realised that someone out there has an ear for our plight. It is always good to be remembered by people from high offices. Chokwadi tatsikwa negomo,” said Gogo Mapfuvamhandu with a beaming smile.
The First Lady has won the hearts of many people in Zimbabwe by blending her elegance with a human touch, reaching out to the poor and less privileged.