Pomp, fanfare as First Lady celebrates with centenarians

The Chronicle

Tendai Rupapa in BULAWAYO

THE elderly were yesterday treated like kings and queens in Bulawayo at an inaugural celebration of centenarians, which left the city spell-bound. Those below 100 years were also roped in. Laughter, song and dance characterised the event, which ended with a luncheon where mouth-watering dishes were served.

Proceedings started with a parade in the Central Business District to the Zimbabwe International Exhibition Centre where they had a photo-shoot with First Lady, Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa, who was guest of honour.

Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa

Hosted by SPA Community Trust, the event dubbed “Celebrating our centenarians”, attracted the elderly from Bulawayo, Matabeleland North and South provinces. The programme will cascade to all provinces. Some of the participants were wheelchair-bound, while others had walking sticks.

The centenarians received certificates and medals. Through her Angel of hope Foundation, the mother of the nation also gave the elderly toiletries, blankets, fleeces, walking sticks, clothes, dishes, buckets and food hampers that had maize meal, cooking oil, sugar, rice, salt, snacks, and dried beans. 

 There were also number 100-shaped cakes, which the First Lady personally shared among the elderly at the massive event, which celebrated and appreciated them. Entertainment was provided by the Cool Crooners, sending the participants down memory lane as they danced to the song “Bhulugwe Lami”, which was a sensation during their heydays

Contrary to tales of loneliness triggered by warped views, which associate the elderly with witchcraft, the elderly at yesterday’s event could be seen laughing, dancing, singing and sharing tales of their past. They were also afforded a chance to tell their stories where they rallied behind the First Lady’s programme of consuming indigenous dishes, which have high nutritional value and medicinal properties.

First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa and SPA Community Trust Director Ms Caroline Stackhouse cut a cake while Minister of State and Devolution for Bulawayo Judith Ncube looks on during celebrations for centenarians in Bulawayo yesterday (Pictures by John Manzongo)

They said healthy eating was one of the secrets to long life. In her remarks, Dr Mnangagwa, who is also the country’s health ambassador, said she was delighted to be among family and friends celebrating the golden milestone of the centenarians.

She emphasised the need to protect the elderly and described life as “a beautiful gift”.

“Let me take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude and applaud SPA Community Trust and their partners, who are the organisers of this event for a job well done,” said Dr Mnangagwa. 

“Life is a beautiful gift and it is all our desire to live our lives to the fullest. SPA Community Trust and its partners saw it fit that we gather today and honour our elderly in the community. Centenarians are our living links to our history and works within our communities and we must tap into their wisdom and knowledge. 

“History is important for our identity, we must know what it is that makes us, ‘us’, and who has that knowledge of where we come from? It is these elders whom we are celebrating today,” she said.

Feeling valued in the community, the First Lady said, was essential for health and happiness. She implored communities to look after the elderly, give them the respect and dignity they deserve as the custodians of history. “All these centenarians you are seeing here are packed with antiquity and wisdom, take some time with them and let them reminisce about their heyday and learn more about their rich lives,” she said. 

“SPA Community Trust and its Partners have done us proud by bringing this concept of centenary celebrations. Some might ask, “What is a centenary celebration? It is when we celebrate those who have reached 100 years or more of life. So, it’s also important for all parents to make sure that their children have birth certificates, otherwise it was going to be difficult to identify all these centenarians if they did not have identity documents. “Let us take advantage of all these programmes that our Government is conducting, of making sure that every citizen is documented, that is, they have a birth certificate and an identity document.”

From next year, the First Lady said, centenary birthday celebrations were going to spread to all the provinces. “Let’s all come out in our numbers and support this noble cause and take time to appreciate, value and pamper our elderly with love and at the same time boost their self-esteem for the life well lived,” she said. 

“Thank you to our centenarians for the many and varied contributions you have made to our communities and the country at large. Makorokoto, Amhlophe to every one of our special guests today. Enjoy the celebrations, it’s all about you today.”

Centenarians with their certificates, medals, toiletries, blankets, fleeces, walking sticks, clothes, dishes, buckets and food hampers among other things they received from First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa through her Angel of Hope Foundation during their celebrations in Bulawayo yesterday

Dr Mnangagwa held an interactive session with the elderly, asking them about the food they like the most and how best it is prepared. One of the respondents said she enjoyed well-prepared “umfushwa wendumba/ mufushwa wenyemba.”

“We get healthy and tender leaves and dry them. When we need to use the vegetables, we soak them but do not throw away the water. After boiling, I may decide to use cooking oil or peanut butter,” said the respondent.

The First Lady applauded her for eating healthy dishes before touching on relationships among in-laws. “Grandfather, why did you love your son-in-law or daughter in law? What qualities did they possess?” she asked. In response, an elderly man likened a son-in-law to a fig-tree.

“A son-in-law is like a fig tree. He is also my son. When he comes into the family, he is coming to take care of me and my wife therefore he is a child who should not be cast away from the home,” he said.

Representing Spa Community Trust, Mrs Caroline Stackhouse, described the elderly as repositories of history and wisdom. This dovetails with the teachings of Dr Mnangagwa, who hammers on the need to provide safety and care for those in the twilight of their lives.

Some of the centenarians enjoy a meal during their celebrations where they received certificates, medals, toiletries, blankets, fleece, walking sticks, clothes, dishes, buckets and food hampers among other things from First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa in Bulawayo yesterday

“We are gathered here to celebrate the lives of special people, our centenarians. I want to thank you all for making this day possible. As SPA Community Trust we have been inspired by the work of our First Lady Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa. She is leaving no one behind, that is touching lives in communities,” said Mrs Stackhouse. 

“Through her Angel of Hope Foundation, she brings hope to those in need. As SPA Community Trust and our partners, we felt challenged to do the same thing to our community hence centenarians celebrations as we celebrate these past 100 years,” she said.

Mrs Stackhouse said centenarians represented the history, wisdom and morale not found in history books. She said her organisation intended to take the celebrations countrywide in partnership with the Angel of Hope Foundation.

“To our centenarians, although 100 years is a fair old age, I can only say like Shakespeare ‘to me fair friend you never can be old’ I look forward to the next century of our friendship. Thank you for the many contributions you have made to our community and our country. We are because of all of you,” she said, drawing applause from the gathering. Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister, Judith Ncube, praised the First Lady for remembering the elderly.

Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution in Bulawayo Judith Ncube

“As we celebrate more than a century of existence for our centenarians from the Matabeleland region, a warm welcome to the First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa. As we are all aware, only a handful of people can say they have made it to 100 years,” she said. 

“The Matabeleland community joins the families of centenarians from the Matabeleland region in celebrating their years of existence here in Bulawayo Metropolitan province. Ladies and gentlemen, it is good that nowadays people live longer and enjoy healthier lives than ever before. More and more people are living up to 100 years and beyond.”

Gogo Makhulu Ngulube (101), said it was through the grace of God and healthy eating that she has lived long.

“I am thankful to God for living this far. This spells the need for children to take good care of themselves and leave risky behaviour characterised by the consumption of drugs. Children must also embrace traditional dishes being promoted by the First Lady because they have high nutritional value and medicinal properties. I am thankful to the First Lady for giving us some goodies today. She has truly remembered us today,” she said.

Khulu Richard Ncube (102), thanked the First Lady for remembering them and promoting indigenous dishes.

“Were it not for the First Lady and other caring people, who would have remembered us. I am grateful and delighted for this achievement. Traditional dishes help cure a lot of ailments that are troubling people today. We need to fully embrace them because they are helpful,” he said.

Mr Andrew Phillip (80) emphasised the need for the younger generation to treasure the wise counsel they receive regularly from the First Lady to stay away from drugs. “It is not by my wisdom that I have reached this age. I implore the younger generation to take heed of words of advice from the elders and stay away from sexual immorality and drugs. That behaviour will lead you to an early grave,” he said.

Gogo Simephi Ndlovu said people are “ruined by lack of knowledge”. 

“God is the creator of the universe and there is great need to put him first in all the things we do. Our children must always be respectful and take advice from the elders. They should be God-fearing as well as shun bad behaviour,” she said. 

“Today I say thank you to the First Lady for everything she is doing for the country and for her Gota/Nhanga/Ixhiba programme, which is teaching our grandchildren good morals,” she said.

Article Source: The Chronicle

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