By Robin Muchetu
Ekuphumuleni Geriatric Convalescent home co-founder, Mrs Polyanna Mahlangu who died on Monday last week at the age of 95 was buried yesterday at Lady Stanley Cemetery in Bulawayo next to her husband Peter.
Mrs Mahlangu suffered a stroke a few years ago and was taken in by the home two years ago where she was recuperating before her death. The stroke had impaired her ability to talk, see and walk.
Bulawayo Mayor Councillor Solomon Mguni mourned her death saying she was passionate and committed to improving the welfare of the elderly when she started the home.
“His Worship Solomon Mguni, the Mayor, Aldermen, Councillors, Town Clerk Mr Christopher Dube, heads of departments and staff of the City of Bulawayo have learned with sadness of the passing on of Mrs Polyanna Mahlangu a Civic Honours Recipient. Mrs Mahlangu was awarded the Civic Honours Award on the 4th of September 1991 as a mark of the City’s appreciation of her public work over a period of many years and in particular the setting up of Ekuphumuleni Old Peoples Home,” he said.
The mayor said Mrs Mahlangu embodied the recognition of a Civic Honours recipient through her community work and brought distinction to the city outside her normal day-to-day duties. A brother to Mrs Mahlangu’s late husband Mr Gareth Mahlangu described her as a unifier.
“There are some people who when they marry into your clan, they bring joy and unity. This was Mrs Mahlangu. She strengthened the bond that we had as family. She never segregated people, she fed the hungry, quenched their thirst and clothed the naked. We celebrate her life because she died at the ripe age of 95 and not many people reach that age so we are grateful for her life,” he said.
Her sister Mrs Minah Nyandoro said Mrs Mahlangu was a cheerful and humble person who leaves behind a legacy of caring for others and the community at large.
Nurse, philanthropist, instructor, monitor, community leader, church leader, mother, grandmother and sister, these were all the descriptions given to the late Mrs Mahlangu. A devout Christian who lived her life in accordance with the Golden Rule — “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, sums up her life as she dedicated most of it to assisting others.
“Community before self or the spirit of ubuntu was her golden rule. It was baked into every fibre of her being, she oriented her life towards helping, supporting and building others up,” read her eulogy.
Mrs Mahlangu was born in Zimnyama, Bulilima Mangwe on 25 November 1926 in the then Rhodesia. Her father was a pastor at the London Missionary Society now United Congregational Church of Southern Africa. In 1947, the fourth born in a family of eight travelled to South Africa at the age of 21 where she studied nursing at McCord’s Hospital in Durban.
It was there where she met her husband whom she later married in 1953 and gave birth to four children. On her return to Zimbabwe, she started a nursing career at Mpilo Central Hospital in 1951 where she went from being a nurse, ward sister and later clinical instructor until she retired from Government service in 1984. Being the child of a reverend herself, Mrs Mahlangu began mentoring people in the community, a role she is said to have taken very seriously.
Mrs Mahlangu’s desire to start a nursing home was revealed in the 1970s when she was still at Mpilo Hospital.
“While working at Mpilo in the 1970s, she had an ailing mother-in-law to take care of at home. That experience and knowing that a lot of times family members were not able to cover the costs of extended care when an elderly person was sick got her thinking.
“Her enterprise spirit kicked in, and she started Ekuphumuleni Geriatric Convalescent Home to take care of the elderly and allow them to rest and recover for a few months while affording their families time to adapt their homes to the needs of the older relatives,” added the eulogy.
Up until the time Mrs Mahlangu suffered a stroke, she served as part of the board at the home. Unfortunately, her Luveve home was broken into by thieves and she was attacked by unknown assailants who demanded money from her and her helpers. Following this incident, she was traumatised and did not want to live in her home and asked to be moved to the geriatric home where she had been staying for the past two years until her death.
She leaves behind three children and 10 grandchildren. The Sunday News