Imagine having a fountain of wisdom that has been around since just before the First World War (1914-1918); someone who lived through the Second World War (1939- 1945); a person who witnessed first-hand the brutality of the settler regime and saw the war of liberation, independence and could be a living embodiment of African endurance and sacrifice. If you had such a person, what questions would you ask?
The Mhaka family in Bulawayo’s Woodlands suburb is blessed with such a person. Last Sunday was a special day for the Chifamba as well as Mhaka families as they decided to celebrate birthdays for two women who are generations apart.
The center of those celebrations held in Woodlands was Remitiya Chifamba who clocked 110 years while her great-granddaughter, Ms. Rutendo Mhaka turned 26. Celebrations were held a day before the two’s birthday. Mbuya Chifamba was born on September 14, 1910.
She has seen it all. Apart from the First and Second World Wars and Zimbabwe’s liberation war, she saw the Spanish Influenza and now Covid-19. She even wore nhembe (traditional loincloth) before modern dresses came along, helped a number of women safely deliver babies at home, and saved many marriages through counseling couples at her rural home. From Chivasa Village under Chief Nyamandi in Gutu, Masvingo, Mbuya Chifamba was overly excited when she was told the media would be attending her birthday festivities since she wanted to tell her story, share age-old wisdom, and perhaps, the detailed secret to longevity.
The last would be very interesting because there appears to be a trend of matriarch longevity in her family, as her mother and grandmother both lived past 100 years while her younger sister is 92 years old. Sadly, Mbuya Chifamba suffered minor stroke days before her birthday, which left her right side paralyzed, affected her speech, and put her in a wheelchair.
Mbuya Chifamba’s family decided to go ahead with the birthday celebrations since the idea was to celebrate life, something she still had. The day started off with a mass led by Father James Batsirai of the Roman Catholic Church, Saint Mary’s Basilica. Despite her old age, she still loves to dress up in bright colors and she got to wear one of her favorite colors, pink, at her birthday celebrations. She was in her Roman Catholic Church uniform for the mass than a purple dress later on when she cut her cake.
“My great grandmother is stubborn. If she doesn’t want water that’s her. She loves sugar. Probably it’s old age but she is obsessed with sugar. She loves to dress up, she loves colors, some of her favorite colors are purple and pink,’’ said Ms. Mhaka.
Mbuya Chifamba could be one of the oldest Zimbabweans alive today.
Mbuya’s Chifamba’s secret to long life in the words of Ms. Mhaka is through prayer, something she has imparted in her great-grandchildren since she prays several times.
“Her secret to her long life is prayer. She always has a Bible, she always tells you to pray. I have taken lessons from her. It takes more than ‘Our Father’ to get to that level, it’s more of a commitment and consistency to be at her level, she has goals when it comes to spiritual life,’’ Ms. Mhaka said.