Gratitude Memoirs #4: Thanks to those who’ve believed in me (Guest Blog)


By John Mokwetsi

I often doubt myself.

I question myself and I question why things are programmed the way they are in my life.

Maybe I occasionally suffer from impostor syndrome or maybe I am just never quite content with whatever I may have achieved.

There are times I when try disassociate myself from my successes and from those achievements people use to define what I am or what I have become.

It is never enough to be me. Some call it ambition and a psychologist friend says it is low self-esteem.

...I have been to places I never thought I'd be, done things I never imagined I'd have a chance to do and people who've believed in me every step of the way!

…I have been to places I never thought I’d be, done things I never imagined I’d have a chance to do and people who’ve believed in me every step of the way!


But it is when I forget other amazing things about being me that I am reminded by my tortured conscience what the great spiritual writer, Thomas Merton once said:

“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.”

In those moments when I have felt my ambition waning, when I have considered my resolutions to be as worthless as the paper they are written on – I have had shoulders graciously offered to me to lean on… and to weep if need be.

Perhaps I took to heart the words of that brilliant French novelist by the name Marcel Proust who said: “Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

Whenever it seemed as though my soul where lost and searching for the path; I have always had that unexpected yet amazing midnight call or that thoughtful and encouraging Facebook inbox and more importantly – the motherly assurance that all would be well.

My mother has had to play the role of a father figure in my life and as a single parent her life was far from easy and fulfilling these roles required a great deal of dedication.

Despite the financially constraints she worked hard to ensure I was fed, clothed, sheltered and that I got a reasonable education.

She has been there to listen to my stories of disappointing girlfriends.

That closeness can only be born out of the heart of a woman, for it is the maternal love that can only be patient with the whining and complaints I had almost on a frequent basis about this and that.

I only discovered a half-brother and two sisters very recently. After 32 years of living I found myself with siblings – a brother and sisters.

Before them, I’m grateful to the close friends I’ve made over the years because I think my friends somehow became dots that linked up to create the person I have become.

From Tafadzwa Chinembiri who has always been there… to Delta Milayo Ndou who always says I can be whoever I want to be… to Bethel Goka who keeps on pushing me… to workmates who have monitored my progress and cheered me all the way and to Joseph Katete’s ears that never tire of my fears.

I am especially blessed to have my wife Mildred who chooses not to see my weaknesses while I am indebted to Vincent Kahiya who put his head on the block for me.

I think of and appreciate people like Ignatius Mabasa for the inspiration and for believing in me, as well as the colleagues I met at the University of Sussex and all the help they gave me (Zondi, Mialisa, Tanya, Sammy and a host of them).

At some point in this whole article, I obviously have to make mention of my favorite football team so here it goes – to Dynamos supporters for showing me that when you cheer others you cheer yourself too!

But I reserve the last and most important mention for my son, Jayden.

Jayden is the brother I never had, he is the reason I work hard, he reminds me of the father I never had because he passed away when I was too young cry.

Jayden is the personification of all my joy as a father and the embodiment of all my fears that go with fatherhood.

They are many others I did not mention, not because their contribution was less important, but because there are far too many to mention.

Suffice to say, I remember each and every one of them and I am so grateful to them.

Gratitude Memoirs #3: Beyond the call of friendship


I heard her the first time.

When she spoke softly and tried to gently nudge me awake.

I screwed my eyes slightly tighter, concentrating on keeping my face blank in the futile hope that she would relent and go away.

But instead, she raised her voice, prodded me more determinedly and starting peeling the blankets off my body – before I could restrain myself, my hand had instinctively shot out to counter her action and snatch back the bed covers – still with my eyes screwed shut.

She paused and I could feel her penetrating gaze.

She knew I was awake and now she also knew I did not want to wake up.

I am not sure now, but perhaps she paused more to rethink her strategy in light of the new information she had gleaned.

Because when she next spoke it was with that soft, common-sensical and cajoling tone of a negotiator who knows that their requests are quite reasonable.

“Vuka De, asambe uyegeza” she said in Ndebele [Wake up, you need to go and bath].

Giving up the pretense of sleep, I opened my eyes and made no attempt to mask the resentment I was feeling before responding churlishly, “Ah Dess, hamba wedwa” [You can go alone].

She wasn’t taken aback by the attitude, instead she laughed indulgently and said firmly that it was time to bath and she was going to help me and we should do it quickly before the bathrooms filled up with people.

And as she spoke the tears pricked at my eyes – self pity.

I was tired, I said.

Tired of moving and the pain that moving caused me.

She was not the one with an injured hip, she did not know what it felt like to try and get into those high tubs with my injured hip protesting any movement let alone the elevation required for me to all but jump into those damn Swinton Hall tubs.

She did not know what the shooting pain felt like as it exploded from my hip joint and coursed through my body in protest over any attempts at bending to scrub my feet.

She should leave me alone, I said.

But I have never known Destelia Monalisa Ngwenya to bite her tongue when what she had to say needed to be said or to shirk from a necessary task regardless of the attendant unpleasantness associated with carrying it out.

...for saving me from myself time after time - thank you mngane wami!

…for saving me from myself time after time – thank you mngane wami!


Destelia and I have been friends for over a decade now and in June of 2004, she spent a week bathing my 3-month pregnant self after I had been hit by a car and was unable to move owing to a hip injury that I sustained.

She would wake up in the morning, put up with my moods and my misdirected anger to help me to the bathrooms, half-lift me into the seemingly high tubs, let me bath the upper part of my body which I could reach without straining my hip and then take charge of the rest so that I wouldn’t have to bend or hurt myself in the attempt.

After the bath she would half-lift me out of the tub again, help me back to my room where the task of getting dressed often involved wearing my underwear last because again, the process of wearing underwear involved bending which had become such an excruciating exercise for me.

I remember one morning where I staged a one-woman mutiny and refused to wear my underwear at all.

I wasn’t going to go through that pain again. No. Not for all the words in the world.

I was going to just spend the day without any underwear because it hurt, hurt, hurt TOO much trying to put a pair on!

I remember her laughing, saying “De, you know you can’t go out without underwear”, and I asked why not? Who would know?

And besides I was done with hurting myself every time I had to move.

And wearing underwear required two simultaneous movements that combined to inevitably set my hip on fire – the act of bending and the act of lifting my legs one at a time.

She would stand there, cajoling, encouraging and reminding me that we needed to hurry up, because I still had to eat the porridge that she had prepared and then take my pain medication.

We had exams throughout that entire week and my friend was pulling double shifts to see me bathed, clothed, fed and then she would have to contend with trying to revise for her exams while playing nursemaid to me.

I know I said thank you to her countless times that week and over the years since then but it never feels like it is enough.

I was a sulky patient, wallowing in self-pity and wondering why all these things were happening to me.

First I get myself knocked up and then I get myself run over by a car just a day before my first year final exams at the University of Zimbabwe?

Why was all this happening? Where was God? Why did my parents have to die and leave me… (I really hate it when people play the ‘I-am-an-orphan’ card so it took some severe depression to get me to that point, lol).

I must have been hell to be around but Destelia was totally unfazed.

She kept showing up every morning to get me ready for days I didn’t even want to face anymore – days she all but bullied me into facing.

And usually, when all the bathing, dressing, eating and taking of pain meds was done – she’d text my male friends to let them know I was ready so that they could come and carry me off to whatever exam venue we would be writing from.

Sometimes it was my female friends who formed into teams and carried me from one point to the other – taking turns to rest and relieve each other of the weight that was me and my useless hip.

Among those who carried me to write exams that year was Falimehang and Nomsa (I can’t believe I forgot her surname and she used to speak Venda! But she was Polite Ndlovu’s girlfriend at the time, lol…hoping those clues help my former college mates to jog my memory); there was Jacob and Sean; and there was Mmeli and Yvonne.

I know I thanked them.

But I must do it again to remind myself of the good fortune I have met with in my life and to let them know that their kindness will always mean a lot to me.

For sacrifices that went above and beyond the call of friendship; I want to say thank you but words are not enough.

With gratitude to Destelia Monalisa Ngwenya – for being there and for saving me from myself more times than I care to count or recall.

Gratitude Memoirs #2: Here’s to life! (Guest Blog)


Written by Cheryl Khuphe
If someone at exactly this time last year had told me that I would spend my next birthday in Harare, I would have looked at them, furrowed my brows and told them to crawl back into whichever hole they came from.

That’s how mad the thought would have made me.

While I am definitely not attracted to easy – I like comfortable.

I was so comfortable in Bulawayo even high water would have cascaded with me to another part of Bulawayo.

...it was a tough 2013; but I learned courage

…it was a tough 2013; but I learned courage


Simply put I was not moving!

Until life happened. 3 days after my birthday, my work life changed. It felt like everything, I had ever known or held dear was dead.

In one day, I lost my innocence and realised that life could change in the blink of an eye, but sometimes even a blink is too long a wait.

In two days the faces in the office changed.

So there I was looking for my sanity, grappling at anything that would give meaning to whatever I was feeling, it was as if I were carrying a torchlight looking for a needle in the dark.

As I turn 26, young to some and old to some, I now know that sometimes we have to be uncomfortable to make life changing decisions.

Sometimes the rug needs to be pulled from under our feet for us to realise we were standing on a thin sheet of ice the whole time.

So it was during that week that I had a light bulb moment.

I realised that I could be comfortable but unhappy.

Does this mean happiness is in far off lands, God forbid!

Happiness is the state of your heart anywhere and anytime.

But my heart wasn’t really pumping in earnest; it was just pumping so that I could exist.

I had no new dreams and was simply immune to the ambition bug.

With no child, no love life, no business, no school I decided to grab life by the horns and move to Harare.

Of course I had to get a job first to make the move. I wonder how I must have looked like, checking in to the bus.

Multitudes of bags, teary eyed and continuously giving long hugs to my mother and brother but oh well, it’s not every day you realise I am leaving everything I know to everything I don’t know.

...I woke up one day and bade farewell to my mum, aunt and sisters...leaving everything familiar to face the unknown

…I woke up one day and bade farewell to my mum, aunt and sisters…leaving everything familiar to face the unknown


Months later, while I don’t have good days all the time, I don’t regret moving. Not because everyone says Harare will give me new opportunities but simply because I took the opportunity.

Simply because I folded item after item of clothing, neatly packed it, loaded my suitcases and presented myself to the City Link bus on a Saturday morning at 7.30am.

I don’t know what tomorrow holds but I know whatever challenges, obstacles and triumphs come my way, I will not shy away from the challenge.

I don’t have it all figured out but if I did then I wouldn’t need to wake up every morning.

I realise that I can’t have made the move, endured the uncertainty and made it through each day without the love and support of my family and my friends.

Since this is women’s month I will roll out the thank yous to the females that have been especially instrumental in the last 8 months.

I am a little apprehensive to do this in case I miss any names but it’s my birthday, forgive me!

Thanks to my mom (who loved me a whole 9 months before I took my first breath), my aunts (Sikhumbulani Mangena, Thabani Siziba, Thobekile Siziba, Medury Siziba, Noma Mangena, Leticia Siso) who never go a week without checking on me.

To my granny who keeps me grounded, my youngens Charlotte Khuphe, Charmaine Mhlophe, Shirley Khumbula and Tabita Dube who make me smile always and to my cousins Cindy Siso, Mpume Siso, Sandra Ndiweni, Khule Siso, one of these days we should all be in a room together mncwaaah.

For my older sisters from other mothers Mucha Ncube, Nhla and my mentors: Lucy Gimane and Karen Kelley who believe in me.

...my amazing mentor - Karen Kelly - thank you for believing in me!

…my amazing mentor – Karen Kelley – thank you for believing in me!


And to my gals: Chele Sidambe, Snqoe Ndlovu, Sile Mathe, Gracious Ndlovu Gumbo, Petronella Nyathi, Nothando Ndlovu, Buhle Maphosa, Nozie Mlalazi, Rorisang Tlou, Wendy Mutema, Snokuthaba Ndebele (lol Snowy), Claire Jones (haha), Sibongiseni Mthwazi, Tapiwa Malaba Ncube – I might be blowing my own horn but I know you will never think twice about picking up my calls.

You have been there through this challenging phase of my life.

While I didn’t really state it outright – my 25th was the hardest year I have ever had to endure!

Thank you God, for all these lovely ladies, in blessing – bless them indeed!

And note to self: have faith, live, laugh, be kind and simply be!

Gratitude Memoirs #1: For Confidence ‘Kisha’ Mshakarara, with gratitude


She stood by the doorway of the bedroom that we had dubbed the ‘girls’ room’ and spoke in measured tones, expelling each word carefully as if it was important to get the words out in their right order.

There was uncharacteristic hesitation in her speech, as though she knew these were the right words to say but that saying them was the wrong thing to do.

She sounded conflicted but resolved.

“I am going into town right now and when I come back, I want to find you gone. Take your pregnancy to its owner. I don’t want to see you in this house again. Is that clear?”

It’s been too long for me to remember my exact response to that but I am sure I said something like “Alright” or “Yes, I will” or “Okay”… I don’t know.

Perhaps I said nothing.

Perhaps I was too shocked and numbed at that point to think of an appropriate response to this woman who had been all but surrogate mother to me for the six years I lived under her roof.

Some memories lie buried deep under layers of greater events, more imposing struggles and instances of excruciating suffering which dwarf everything else that preceded them.

So my recollection of these particular events is neither sharp nor precise, merely a hazy outline of what I remember to have happened and now, after so many years, what remains are broad stroke reminiscence of pains that have long ceased to matter.

What I remember is that it was 12 July, a Monday in the year 2004 – a solid decade ago and so much has happened in my life since then as to render these events relatively mild in magnitude but not in consequence.

I was three and a half months pregnant and had been back home for just three days on semester break after writing my first year examinations at the University of Zimbabwe where I was student.

The circumstances under which I wrote those exams require a whole blog to outline, suffice to say that, I had been hit by a car along Harare’s Rotten Row the previous month and suffered injuries to my hip joint rendering me unable to walk.

I had written my examinations after being carried on the backs of fellow students from one exam room venue to the next – but that’s a story for another blog.

On this Monday of 2004, I was being kicked out and I had no clue how I was to walk from the house of my uncle where I had lived since I was 14 to my boyfriend’s home which was about 15 minutes walk away.

For starters, my hip hadn’t really healed so I had trouble walking – it hurt incredibly to even move, let alone attempt to carry my bags and measly belongings and present myself at my boyfriend’s doorstep claiming refuge for myself and the baby I was carrying.

As fate would have it, one of my dearest friends from High School whom I had not seen in over a year had returned to Zimbabwe and called to say she was coming over to visit me and catch up.

I remember telling her that visiting me was not a good idea because I had just been ordered to vacate the premises and I wasn’t even sure if I would be welcomed at my boyfriend’s home.

I don’t think I cried that day.

Maybe I had known and expected this course of action from my aunt – that kicking me out was what the average parent or guardian does under the circumstances.

Anyway, I packed what I could and my heart was aggrieved at all the piles of cherished novels and books I could not take with me.

I had no idea how exactly I would walk to my boyfriend’s house and my aunt had not specified what time exactly she would be returning from town so I had no clear sense of deadline, only the knowledge that I was no longer welcome there.

The answer came in the form of my friend, Kisha, who showed up at the door even after I had warned her that she might not be met with a warm welcome as I myself had now become persona non grata.

She showed up regardless of the fact that she had just arrived from a grueling 12 hour journey from SA and hadn’t even seen me in over a year.

She showed up because that’s what real friends do when you’ve gotten yourself into trouble – they show up.

It was Kisha who carried the luggage and it was Kisha who bore the weight of my body leaning against hers for support.

It was Kisha who made jokes about the situation, made me laugh so hard that although it took me double the time to get to my boyfriend’s home – I wasn’t in a state of despair.

It was Kisha who saw me off to what would become my premature marriage to a very young man of 23 that I was madly in love with.

What should have been the worst day of 2004 was saved only because a wonderful friend of mine showed up and for that I am grateful.

I don’t know how I would have made it without her, Kisha has a habit of ‘showing up’ especially when the going gets tough.

...Confi, we have come a long way from the girls we used to be..

…we have come a long way from the girls we used to be..


This blog is to say (in many words) that I love you and I am so thankful you showed up when you did.

There are thousands of memories I have of you and countless acts of kindness you have bestowed upon me but somehow – I remembered 12 July 2004.

Thank you Confie.

Don’t stay in debt


My father was big on lessons, in fact he loved passing on his wisdom so much that he took to holding annual general meetings with his children.

Back then, I used to find the yearly ritual rather tedious because apart from giving us life lessons, he would also take the time to do an inspection of our general conduct over the course of the year and chide those of us who had displeased him.

As you may have guessed my name featured quite frequently and rather prominently in this exercise of identifying behavioural misconduct.

It always made me squirm in my seat and my siblings would all wear those appropriate looks of mild shock (as if they were hearing of my misdemeanours for the first time).

My father has been gone for 11 years now and in that time, I have found in his words the strength and courage to overcome, the resolve to work hard and endure but more importantly the audacity to follow my own heart.

And I tell you, following your own heart is an audacious thing to do particularly in a world where the rules are already laid down and conformity is the norm.

Of all the things my father taught me, the one lesson I learned well is that I should never stay in debt and that I should never forget anyone that I am indebted to.

He insisted that one should repay every single kindness every chance they get.

My father was a man who believed that the world owes us nothing and that people in general were not necessarily obligated to go out of their way to show us kindness.

He was a man who did not like debts – financial, material or moral. If you owed a debt financially or materially you had to pay it off once and be done with it.

But if you owed someone a moral debt for a kindness shown, then he insisted that you never forget and that you repay the same kindness over and over every chance you got.

He demanded that the act of kindness shown to you by that one person should become the enduring reference point in any future dealings you had with the person.

He used to irritatingly emphasize that you could never fully repay a moral debt because you can’t place a monetary value on kindness and that we all lived eternally indebted to those who’d shown us kindness when we needed it most.

So the conclusion of the matter is don’t stay in (financial) debt but stay (morally) indebted. Heaven knows, whatever you’ve accomplished – you couldn’t have done it without a little help.