When Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet back then, Juliet said to Romeo “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet”, I also ask ‘what’s in a name that we call love’ when an innocent partner is infected with HIV/AIDS and T.B. Nhamo was only 5. His face was full of innocence. But the world was treating him and his mother unkindly. All they had was a dirty rented flat in the Matererini flats in Mbare which happens to be one of the oldest, overcrowded and dirty sprawling high density suburbs in Harare. It was a neighbourhood which was unfit for the upbringing of children. The whole neighbourhood was usually characterised with a deep stench especially late in the evenings. Lot of garbage and litter could be seen littered in the vicinity of the flat. Not to be outdone were the flies and the rummaging dogs. It was under such an environment that Nhamo was born, bred and raised. After infecting her mom with HIV/AIDS – and if not enough, Nhamo’s mom was also infected with Tuberculosis which later morphed into drug resistant (T.B), by her hubby before he passed on. Anyway, life had to go on.
Events came rushing, the real infection with HIV/AIDS especially during the early 1990s when HIV/AIDS was still punctuated with much stigma made life so difficult to Nhamo’s mom. This was a period when there was also much stigma through the discourse of HIV/AIDS pandemic as a ‘disaster’ as epitomised through the narrative and characterisation of the epidemic through the words like Mukondombera, Shuramatongo.This was also a time when Anti-retroviral (ARVs) drugs were still beyond the reach of many poor and frail citizens like Nhamo’s mom. Although emotionally traumatised for years, Nhamo’s mom was a strong woman who managed to celebrate the life and times of her husband. In everything she did in life, she tried to be strong. She had gone through a lot – from denial to disclosure. Through her once beautiful face, she tried to be strong – but the pain and suffering was written all over her face. One could read from the yellow teeth and feigned smile on her pale face that she was dying inside. She had to fend for her son Nhamo. Like most able bodied Zimbabwean women who were flocking outside the country to go to countries such as South Africa and Tanzania to trade, Nhamo’s mom had resorted to informal trading of vegetables in within urban Zimbabwe. But, with the cost of the standard of living she also opted to broaden her source of income by collecting empty plastic bottles for re-sale.
Every morning she would wake up at the crack of dawn. She would go to the market to hoard vegetables and stock in their overwrowded one room which they literary shared with the troublesome rats. Through the many years of hardship Nhamo’s mom had mastered well the art of her trade. During the early hours in the morning the prices of the vegetables would be occasionally low as most farmers would come to sell their produce at lower prices. Farmers would come as far from places like Mutoko and Murehwa. With her basic primary education Nhamo’s mom seemed to have mastered the art of economics especially the law of supply and demand and price elasticity. From the market she would also head straight to collecting empty plastic containers. That was her daily routine. By sunrise she would be spotted selling her ware in the streets. For years her business ventures seemed to be thriving but at times she would go home penniless. In days like such, her ware would have been confiscated by the municipal police. Every day she had to play the ‘cat and mouse’ game with the city council officials who occasionally chased after illegal vendors.
On a serene and bright Sunday on the 12th of August 1994 Nhamo and his mom went to the streets to sell their ware as of usual. The sun was shining towards sunset, and occasionally Sundays are generally quiet especially in the Central Business District (CBD). So was this particular Sunday. Mostly across the Zimbabwean society churchgoers will be worshipping or relaxing at home after spending the rest of the afternoon at church. Drunkards will be drinking like nobody’s business. Generally there would be little activity in the city. Nevertheless, Nhamo’s mom could still go to the streets from the 1st of January to the 31st of December. The streets where her only source of livelihood. As Nhamo was chasing a swarm of flies hovering over his mom, he thought his mom was asleep. He thought his mom would wake up, he thought they would go to Matererini flat and enjoy their supper with sadza and overcooked vegetables. Little did he knew his mom had succumbed to illness – she had breathed her last breath.
Zimbabwean singer Charles Charamba once composed a song called Mhinduro Iripo (meaning there is a divine solution or answer to the HIV/AIDS pandemic). To Nhamo there is also an answer!!!!