‘Age is just but a number’: Muvhango actress (96)

The saying that you are as old (or young) as you feel contains a lot of truth. A 96-year-old gogo from Thenzheni village made her acting debut on television late last year when she landed herself a role in one of the most loved soapies in the country, Muvhango.

For Ms Tshinakaho Mananga, age does not limit her ambitions in life. “To me, age is just a number. I feel very strong mentally and physically. I can run from here to Makonde (about seven kilometres) and back,” she said.

But how, everybody is asking, did she manage to end up acting on national television at her age?

“I went for auditions like any other actress in the country,” was her reply.

She explained that her neighbour, Ms Nkhangweni Munyamela, who is also an actress, told her about the auditions, which were held at the Thohoyandou Town Hall. “She took me there and I passed with flying colours!” she said with a broad smile on her face.

Mananga believes she is living proof that, if God chooses you to succeed at something, no-one can stop you – not even if you are not educated. “I cannot read or write, but today, I am an actress. During shooting, my fellow cast members are given scripts and spend hours rehearsing, but with me it is different. They just tell me what to do, and I do it without stammering. It makes me proud to know that there are very educated people in this country, and here I am – at my age – more famous than them because I am always on their television screens.”

When Mananga is home, she spends most of her time preventing the monkeys and baboons from stealing the maize in her orchard. “I leave the house at 05:00 every morning until after 18:00 to go work the field and watch the orchard. Some of the big baboons are very stubborn and try to intimidate me, but I use my catapult to shoot at them. I still have very good aim,” she brags.

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When she travels around with the Muvhango cast during shooting, she hires people to stand in for her at her orchard and keep the monkeys and baboons away. “Otherwise, they will eat everything in my orchard,” she said.

Despite her advanced age, she feels she still has a lot to offer to the entertainment industry. “As long as they give me roles designed for people of my age, I will continue to entertain TV viewers for a very long time to come,” she said.

Sharing her secret on being blessed with a long life and good health, she said that people, especially the younger ones, should avoid frozen foods and alcohol. “Eat a lot of fruits, traditional food like mushidzhi, thinzie and nyendanyendani, avoid alcohol and cigarettes at all cost, and you will live long. You also have to be faithful in your relationship and stick to one partner,” she said.

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