98-year-old driving wonder still on the road

The Chronicle

Peter Matika, Senior Reporter
At 98 years old, Mzilikazi resident Mr George Eniyasi Murambakuyana who acquired his driver’s licence in 1964, is arguably the country’s oldest kombi driver.

Mr Murambakuyana, who plies the City-Barbourfields route, seems to be the most preferred kombi driver on the route.

“Gad’edumayo”, as  Mr Murambakuyana is affectionately known in the taxi industry in Bulawayo, turned 98 on March 3 this year.

He learnt to drive 75 years ago in Bulawayo after relocating from Zvimba in Mashonaland West province.

“In fact, I don’t think I am old, I am still fit as a fiddle,” George says.

He says he has owned a number of vintage cars, including an Austin Cambridge and Volkswagen Van, vehicles that have contributed to his livelihood.

“I owe it all to myself,” he said.

Mr George Eniyasi Murambakuyana

Today he is still on the road, only now in a Toyota Hiace, which he uses to make ends meet by ferrying commuters to and from town.

George says he has no plans to give it up, and will also keep loving his wife — Nomathemba Gumede — Murambakuyana who is 47.

George says he has never been involved in an accident.

“I have never been involved in an accident.  While stories about elderly drivers making mistakes or causing crashes often make headlines, it is mostly young drivers who tend to cause accidents,” said George.

He says he only needs the aid of a co-driver when driving long distances but he is up to the challenge.

“I can drive long distances. I am very much capable of driving from Cape to Cairo,” said George.

He says he has 11 children, 43 grand children and great grandchildren and his present marriage is the third.
George said his first and second wife passed away years ago and he finally settled with Nomathemba in 2009.

“We got married in 2009 in court,” he proudly declared. “I am the only living sibling in my family, there were nine of us and I was the fifth born.

We were three boys and the rest were girls. Historically I wouldn’t know of any family member that lived to be my age. But I did hear stories while growing up of an uncle who lived for more than 100, years,” said George.

George says he was born in 1924 in Zvimba before moving to Magunje in the same Mashonaland West province.

He said he went to school with the late former President Cde Robert Mugabe from whom he says he used to copy from at Kutama Mission.

“I used to copy from him, something which he detested. He was a friendly character but was very ominous. He did show qualities of leadership when we were in school and little did we know that he would one day turn out to be the country’s President.

“He always used to tell me that in order to be successful in education I needed to follow just a few steps and those are: avoid many friends, girls, study and be humble.

Mugabe used to tutor us especially the English language. I remember him telling us that if we wanted to pass English we had to learn and practise our spellings,” said George.

He said Mugabe was a diligent and intelligent person, who always had his head buried in books and was always at the top of their class.

George stated that he never met Mugabe after he relocated to Bulawayo.

“I did try reaching out to him after he ascended to the presidency but I would like to believe he had forgotten me. I was turned away by officials from his office and I never bothered myself since then.

George said years back, he ran away from home with a friend to seek greener pastures in Bulawayo.

“I ran away from home and school with a friend – Thembo to seek greener pastures here in Bulawayo. I remember we boarded a train with no money and hid under the seats till the ticket master passed.

Upon arrival we went to his lodgings in Makokoba, where he dumped me. I remember being chased away by the community there as I was an outsider and couldn’t speak Ndebele. They let me put up for a night before kicking me out in the morning,” said George.

He stated that he walked aimlessly to Kingsdale suburb in search of a job where lady-luck smiled on him.

“I met a friend, whom I attended school with in Zvimba at Kutama Mission. His name was Aleck Maplanka. He took me in but there were rules since he was working for a white man, a Russian if I am to be precise.

I was only allowed in the house after 11PM, when his employer had retired to bed and out as early as possible before the sun rise. He would leave me some of his food to eat and I did survive,” he said.

Eventually he managed to find a job as a messenger and teaboy at a company that was called General Accident Insurance.

“I worked there for a while until the company went bankrupt and closed. I then bought my first car, a Volkswagen Van, which I used to survive by providing a transport service to people,” said George.

George said he has never tasted alcohol, smoked a cigarette or dagga or have multiple partners during the course of a relationship.

“I love meat, I eat in small portions. I don’t want to feel stuffed. I drink lots of water and the only drink I like is diet coke. I regularly go to church and pray and exercise,” he said.

His wife spoke well of him.

“He loves working and barely requires assistance, he is able to do everything on his own. He does appreciate assistance but he is a man with so much pride.

He likes his vehicle a lot and always tells us that without that we would be starving. He is quite sassy and cheeky in character. He minds his own business and you will rarely find him mingling with people,” said Nomathemba.

Acting Director For the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ) Mr Ernest Muchena said to drive public service vehicles such as kombis and buses one has to be between 25 years and 70 years.

“When you are driving your own vehicle there is no limit as long as you are 16 years and above,” said Mr Muchena.

Article Source: The Chronicle

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