By Debra Matabvu
Mbare is a 112-year-old suburb that seems to have been forgotten by history and scared by painful past experiences of the black population that used to cram this high-density community to provide labour for the growing colonial settler town of Salisbury (now Harare).
Its time-worn buildings are now decrepit, while Mbare Flats in particular are now dirty, poor and reek of poverty.
In the words of the Biblical Nathaniel, one can be forced to ask, “Can anything good come out of Mbare?”
But events in the past week – where Cyclone Idai laid waste to communities in Chimanimani and Chipinge in Manicaland province, and instantly plunged families into grief and poverty – seem to prove that the rich to poor dichotomy is both subjective and relative.
While some looked to foreign lands for help, 70-year-old Gogo Magombo from Block C, Mbare Flats, looked deep inside her golden heart.
“What affects you also affects me, and I was touched by this (Cyclone Idai) disaster; more so, happening to my fellow countrymen,” she said.
“I have never been to Chipinge or Chimanimani all my life. I do not have relatives in that part of the country. I come from Uzumba. However, when I heard of the cyclone, I knew I had to do something. Being able to feel each other’s pain and to carry each other’s burden is what makes humanity great and better than other species.”
Born Plaxedes Dilon in Chegutu in 1948, Gogo Magombo, as she is known by her peers, is not rich. On Monday, the great grandmother of nine walked all the way from her humble lodgings – a single room subdivided by a curtain that separates the kitchen space from the bedroom area – in Mbare to Star FM studios to deliver a bagful of clothes.
What many people don’t know is that she had taken the donations from her merchandise.
After being widowed in 2008, Gogo Magombo took up vending as a source of income.
Her day normally begins at 4am as she has to make it to the market in time to sell her wares to vegetable suppliers who travel to Harare from plots and farms around the city.
She also sells her products in neighbouring suburbs.
Her day typically ends at 8pm.
It is after a typical hard day’s work on Sunday that she heard the distressed calls from Manicaland.
“On Sunday, I had just got back from vending when Star FM made a plea to volunteers to donate towards Cyclone Idai victims,” she explained.
“I heard there were people already there in Chimanimani and Chipinge helping, but I had to do something.
“I immediately packed the clothes and jackets that I earlier purchased for resell and carried my bag to Star FM the following morning.
“Giving has to come from one’s will and heart; that is why I went alone.”
Gogo Magombo, however, reckons that giving is part of her lifestyle.
“We are having a problem these days. A lot of people, especially Christians, think pastors are the only ones that should be helped,” she added.
“They believe that giving should only be done to those who are in their religious circles. However, in the Bible, it is written in Matthew 25 verse 45 that ‘whatever you did to the least of my brothers, you did it unto me.’
“For me, that is what defines praying.”
She also believes that giving is a spiritual act that naturally engenders glad tidings.
Giving, she added, often results in more blessings.
“What you give out in the world is what you receive back,” she smiles, showing her gaped teeth.
“Just this morning one of my friends gave $3 bond (to the victims), this was part of her grandchild’s marriage dowry. I was not expecting it; it felt so good.
“In addition, it helps you to sleep better and I can testify to that.”
Zimbabweans are still coming to terms with the devastating cyclone, which has been described by the United Nations as probably the worst ever weather-related disaster to hit the southern hemisphere in a long time.
By yesterday, the death toll had soared to 154, while 187 people remain unaccounted for. More than 4884 have been displaced. Worryingly, 136 people are still marooned.
Some villages were either completely submerged or washed away in Chipinge and Chimanimani.
The dire aftermath of the monstrous cyclone has been felt across Africa, Europe and around the world.
But Zimbabweans did not wait for international aid to help their fellow kinsmen. They readily contributed donations in the form of blankets, food, clothes and psychological support.
If ever a list of people who donated to the Cyclone Idai is complied, Gogo Magombo’s name would be there together other individuals, corporates and international community who weighed in for the national cause. Although she is not famous, she will be listed amongst the famous. She will also go down as a great Zimbabwean with a heart of gold.
American civil rights activist Dr Martin Luther King Jnr once said: “Not everybody can be famous, but everybody can be great because greatness is determined by service… You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.” Sunday Mail.