A hectic motherhood in the twilight of one’s life holds little attraction.
This is the time when one wants to lie back and let their children and grandchildren pamper them and shower them with the attention those who have seen off their children into adulthood deserve.
But for Mbuya Esinati Kunguva (79), of Marozva Village in Bikita, this is a luxury she cannot afford.
She successfully saw her children off into adulthood, but then she has been called back to motherhood again after losing her sons to — as she grudgingly hinted — HIV and Aids.
“Ah, kuda ndizvoka izvo zvirwere zviriko mazuva ano izvi,” (perhaps they died as a result of the diseases that are prevalent nowadays),” she said with a hint of reluctance in her tremulous voice.
Since last year, the granny has been looking after two of her grandchildren, Jesina (9) and Itai (11), who lost their parents between 2008 and 2009.
Although the children had been going to school under the Basic Education Assistance Model (Beam), Mbuya Kunguva is forced to fund their education after the programme ran out of funds.
However she failed to meet their requirements.
“I don’t always have the money”, she said. “So sometimes they spend time at home.”
This was confirmed by Chief Marozva, who is worried over the socio-economic hardships afflicting his subjects.
“The people are struggling to pay (school) fees,” he said. “The school committees often come to me to complain. Sometimes we have to threaten them into paying, but if someone doesn’t have the money, like a widow with four to five children, what do you do?”
The elderly woman sometimes resorts to brewing beer, commonly known as ndari in Shona, which she sells to other villagers in a bid to raise the money for fees.
“If I’m able to get zviyo (millet), then I brew beer for sale to raise money,” she said. “But then, sometimes I’m not able to get zviyo.”
From about 200 litres of beer sales, she can raise $10, which is not little in this drought–stricken part of the country where even a R1 coin is hard to come by.
Although she has a thriving vegetable garden, the absence of viable markets nearby makes it virtually impossible to earn significant money through the sale of the vegetables.
A huge bundle of vegetable, which can call for an arm and leg in Harare, can go for as little as R5 or less here.
In some instances, people in the community have to resort to barter-trading as a means of paying for goods and services. Here, they often use gallons of maize — whenever they have good harvests — as a mode of payment.
“We had to ask the headmasters to allow parents to pay fees using maize,” said Chief Marozva. “The schools then sell the maize to get cash.”
Mbuya Kunguva said although she got some maize seed in January last year, this year it has been a different story and at the moment she has no idea where she will get seed. Like the other villagers, she is likely going to use maize seeds from last year’s crop.
This kind of seed, according to agricultural experts, does not guarantee good yields.
With all her children dead, it means she only has the assistance of her two grandchildren for farming activities.
Another village elder, Elisha Chiseva, said deaths, feeding off the Aids pandemic, were now widespread in the villages and in just one week, they could bury as many as four people.
“These days it’s better. During the diamond rush in 2008, many children, including school pupils, perished at Nyika Growth Point where prostitution was rife,” he said.
The scar on this community’s conscience, he added, is the huge number of child-headed households.
In the same community, there is a young girl, a 6th former, who is single-handedly caring for her blind and disabled younger brother who can hardly do anything by himself.
While sometimes the local chief assisted them with maize, at other times they had to travel to the surrounding farms to buy maize, which costs between $4 and $5 per 20kg.