Headlines are generally depressing these days.
Covid-19 is dominating them; infections and deaths continuing to rise in Europe, US, South America and Africa; researchers hard at work for a vaccine that is months away yet is wanted like yesterday and the disease’s debilitating impact on economies and livelihoods.
We are being warned too that even if the vaccine is found today, economies and livelihoods will not recover as soon as we all want them to. Slot in the worldwide grief and anger that has followed the May 25 murder of an African-American George Floyd by a US policeman and you get really bad news all around.
Indeed, we are celebrating as some people recover from Covid-19 but experts warn that if we don’t continue social distancing, washing our hands thoroughly, disinfecting our homes and workplaces and wearing face masks or if we get too complacent too early, infections might keep rising. Life is never enjoyable when it is lived on the edge.
To break that gloomy trend, we had a really uplifting story yesterday of a Figtree man who had to quickly get over the loss of his wife and mother of his children to be able to singlehandedly care for their newborn.
Mr Phumuza Gumede (63) lost his wife, MaNkiwane on July 28 last year soon after she had delivered a baby boy, Luvuyo. Yes, we belatedly mourn her death, but we have to say the way her husband has cared for their youngest child uplifted our spirits. The public’s response in supporting Mr Gumede for looking after their son has made us happier.
He has broken the stereotypes that men cannot raise their children alone; that widowers cannot take care of their children, especially infants; that men remarry as soon as their wives pass on.
That he moves around Figtree with his tot in a wheelbarrow as he does his small jobs after the boy was dumped by his maternal aunt makes the story much more amazing.
“I have finally mastered the art of changing cotton nappies and I am proud to say I have nursed my baby by myself due to circumstances beyond my control,” Mr Gumede told us on Thursday.
“We had registered my wife’s pregnancy at Cyrene Clinic which is about 10km from our house but she never made it there. My wife died just after delivering and some elderly women who had come to help her deliver said she bled a lot. . . . MaNkiwane left a huge scar in my life and after all the challenges that we had been through, I have vowed that I would take care of my four sons. The youngest, Luvuyo, is somewhat special as he has made me experience fatherhood like never before.”
We salute Mr Gumede for his heroic parenting role, for breaking the stereotypes, for showing so much love, so much fatherly, rather motherly love for his young son. We also salute him for showing so much love for his wife, though late, by taking good care of their baby under very difficult circumstances. May God richly bless him for that.
The public, responding after a photo of Mr Gumede pushing Luvuyo in the wheelbarrow which was circulated on social media over the past few days, must be commended for what they have done and what they will do in future as promised.
By Thursday evening, Mr Gumede had received about $47 000 on EcoCash from well-wishers to support him in caring for his son with others buying groceries for the family.
A donor will sponsor Luvuyo’s education from primary school to university through an organisation run by Zimbabwean women living abroad. The organisation is also going to help Mr Gumede build a house for himself and his sons.
The public is urged to continue donating to Mr Gumede and those who have pledged, fulfill their pledges especially building the house for the family and education for Luvuyo. A house will enable Mr Gumede and his four sons to live together as one family. An education will give Luvuyo a future.
In addition to the house and other donations in cash, food and clothes, Mr Gumede deserves a stable job, not the small ones he is doing here and there at Figtree. We are optimistic that having responded the way they have done so far, someone will soon come along with a job offer for him. That will give him and his sons greater financial stability and peace.
However, Mr Gumede must be careful as the sudden, positive change in his fortunes might attract all sorts of pressures that could destroy the good name he has built for himself. Some who have had no time for him as he took care of his sons alone might suddenly realise that he exists.
Mr Gumede does not have a house. We think he has not had $47 000 in the bank. He will soon have a house and he has $47 000 in the bank. We advise that he keeps his feet on the ground and his family intact.
This story of unconditional love and courage on Mr Gumede’s part and compassion on the public’s part is what we need to be able to forget, even for a short period, about the challenges that Covid-19 has wrought on all of us.