THE world’s oldest granny Emma Morano from Italy is 117 years old this year yet, in Bulilima, a rural district in South-western Zimbabwe there is an unknown woman who has also lived the same number of years – if her birthdate as given by her close family members is anything to go by.
Despite her age, Mapobo Mvundla who was born in a farm in the then Bulilima (gwa) Men’we, probably during the era of transition from the Iron Age tradition lives in abject poverty – and has apparently not received any miniature support from the Zimbabwean government.
Her grass-thatched home, an indicator of rural poverty in this part of the country and the absence of proper ablution facilities speak volumes of the desolation and pain which Mvundla, one of the oldest centenarians in Zimbabwe is going through.
President Mugabe, a nonagenarian whom most Zimbabweans often mock for being one of the oldest living being in the the country – and sometimes Africa is only 92 years, 25 years younger than Mvundla who says “I am now tired of living”.
She has never gone out of her hut for 22 years now,” Desire Dube, the woman’s nephew who irks a living in neighbouring South Africa says, showing deep sorrow and resentment for the Zimbabwean government which he is convinced should do something to accord her old-age granny proper care under the Social Services scheme for the old age.
But the Zimbabwean government which is obliged by the country’s Constitution to take care of elderly people has long abandoned this scheme – without notice – because it has nothing in its coffers – which have now been dried up by years of economic recession.
What makes the situation worse for granny Mvundla is that her only surviving child Ntombiyezizwe Nyoni, is 85 years old now – and is also battling with dotage, a condition which physicians say is caused by old age.
“There is no single borehole closer to their home,” Dube says in disappointment. “So they have to get water from a river about 2 kilometres away.”
Dube also blames local leaders for “not doing anything” to help an elderly person – who is in dire need of social support.
Typical of persons who have reached old age, Mapobo can no longer wear any clothes as this terribly affects her skin. As a result of this, she now prefers staying in her birthday suit, a situation which scares away would-be visitors including her neighbours.
Mapobo does not have any national documents such as a birth certificate and an I.D, a circumstance which in worst scenarios, makes it difficult for her to access public food aid, adding to her grinding poverty.
“I am tired of living,” Mvundla said in a low, sinking voice over the phone when this reporter made an attempt to talk to her through a neighbour’s mobile line.
“I am now waiting for the final whistle – and die peacefully,” she said before she went dead silent over the phone.