Ubuntu/hunhu, the missing link



By Catherine Murombedzi

A JIGSAW puzzle gets exciting as one pieces the missing links into place. 

The picture gets clearer and one gets a feeling of satisfaction as the puzzle nears completion. 

Eureka, is the feeling of satisfaction when done!

Growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, a community was made up of people from diverse backgrounds.

Everyone knew everyone, thus the neighbourhood was a unit. One’s child was everybody’s child. 

A parent could admonish a neighbour’s child. 

The naughty child hoped the reprimand ended with the neighbour, for getting to the parent’s ear meant gnashing of teeth.

An elderly woman was everyone’s mother, so was a father. Grandmothers and grandfathers too were treasured. 

A slaughtered goat fed not just one family. 

It was shared, with the sahwira getting the honour of the head, thus the tongue, a delicacy, was sahwira’s relish to take home.

A chicken was never too small to share. 

The surprised neighbour licked fingers at supper from the unexpected plate served. 

Kandiro kanoenda kunobva kamwe, loosely translated: ‘One good turn deserves another’.

Today the old are neglected with reckless abandon.

Who pocketed that link in the jigsaw puzzle?

Ubuntu/hunhu gone! 

The binding piece is lost, let’s all be up to find the missing piece.

Above image is a real life picture of Ambuya Dhaaa’s home. 

That wooden trolley makes her kitchen. 

No pots, plastic water containers holding the precious liquid. 

A charcoal stove (mbaura) to keep her warm at night. 

Not only is the mbaura a warmer, it is a potential danger that could set her ablaze in her sleep.

Welcome to the harsh reality of a senior citizen aged 84, in a shack and all alone. 

Ambuya Dhaaa resides in Beta community, Mt Hampden, barely

20km west of the capital city Harare, along the N1 Harare-Chinhoyi Highway.

Plastics covering her leaking roof are in tatters with the dirt brick cold floor dusty.

Midmorning, Ambuya Dhaaa lonely sits on an old metal dish sunbathing.

Nearby is a lunchbox, with remnants of a cold lump of sadza from supper.

A well-wisher, who is our link, brought her supper last night. 

She introduces my husband and I to ambuya.

“Gogo ndauya nevaenzi vauya nezvekudya zvenyu(I have brought visitors, they bring you food).” 

At first she fails to recognise our guide. 

Patience goes on to introduce herself several times.

Finally, Ambuya Dhaa answers: “Mai Gamu vekupi? (Which Mai Gamu?)” 

After a while, she smiles: “I have just finished eating sadza and chicken from supper, Mai Gamu brought it, do you know Mai Gamu?”

With dementia setting in, the exchange is not surprising.

What brings my husband and I to see Ambuya is

the humble donation of foodstuffs made possible courtesy of Santa Girls Community.

The Santa Community is a WhatsApp group made up of a few former St Dominics Chishawasha girls.

Through Patience, I learnt of ambuya’s plight and highlighted it on the forum.

Arthritis and failing eyesight aside, Ambuya Dhaaa is healthy for an 84-year-old.

On enquiring of her birth place, ambuya lights up:

“I was born in Bocha, my mother is a grandchild of the Mutambara clan. 

“When she died, we were teenagers. My brother and I left home. “Her death was questionable. 

“We have never been back home. 

“My brother is late. 

“My brother left children. 

“I now remain alone, my husband is gone.”

Ambuya Dhaaa is a devout Christian. 

She prays for glad tidings for the Santa Community.

She talks of Mai Mufundisi from her Church, a Mai Chiyangwa, with nostalgia.

“I had plates, pots and a phone from Mai Chiyangwa, but all these, including blankets, were stolen,” she said. 

“The phone eeeish, a young man came and asked to have it

recharged, he never brought it back. 

“Blankets and plates were stolen one night as I slept.”

Who in his/her right mind steals from a vulnerable old granny!

Ambuya could have been a victim of sexual abuse. 

At one time she got ill and relied on the local businessman to be ferried to and fro the clinic. 

The businessman still gives ambuya candles and handouts.

Arthritis has set in, forcing Ambuya to crawl in the tiny room and out to sunbath or relieve herself just a metre away on the grass.

“I am no longer able to walk,” she said. 

“I used to go to the shops to get food. 

“Pass by and tell him I need candles.”

A few metres away is a farmbrick-making concern.

Gaping swallow holes rear ugly mouths ready to give a shock as one hits the ground with broken bones.

Such is the environment ambuya calls home.

“My roof leaks. Next time please bring plastics and cover the roof,” she said. 

“Also bring me meat, I love meat.”

Where has ubuntu/hunhu gone?

Who steals from an aged, harmless and lonely granny?

We could not leave the food under Ambuya’s roof.

Patience Muchena, herself in need too, continues to be Ambuya’s benefactor. 

We handed all to her to continue with her helping hand.

Can someone reading this take ambuya into a home for the aged.

The writer has twice contacted a social welfare reference with no joy, not even an acknowledgement of the message sent on the phone. 

Such is the attitude of those ‘supposed to serve’.

Can the lockdown bring back the missing pieces

of the jigsaw puzzle?

I stand to see.

As for Ambuya Dhaaa, she daily crawls outside her shack to wait for a well wisher to keep her body and soul together.

the missing link


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