Surprise for Leap Year babies, a birthday after every four years Ms Nontobeko Mguni (27) being congratulated by Sister In Charge Celesani Ncube (left), Sister Memory Moyo (2nd from right) and Mpilo Hospital Public Relations Officer Matron Norma Mabhena at Mpilo Central Hospital yesterday. (Picture by Nkosizile Ndlovu)

Raymond Jaravaza and Ashley Phiri, Chronicle Writers 

MISS Nontobeko Mguni of Nkulumane suburb was ecstatic yesterday afternoon, holding her bouncing baby girl who was born hours earlier at Mpilo Central Hospital, a special day that comes once every four years – 29 February.

The year 2024 is special in that it has an extra day in February and is known as a Leap Year. 

The mother of three says she has yet to name her newborn but has already made a decision that the girl’s first birthday next year will be celebrated on 28 February, even though it might feel like a premature birthday celebration.

“I’m so excited to be holding my little girl in my arms. I wasn’t expecting to give birth today (yesterday) since the doctors had told me that I was due to give birth at least a month from now.

“There are a couple of names we have in mind for my baby but we are yet to name her. Since she was born on 29 February, we will celebrate her first birthday on 28 February next year and I don’t mind that it will not be on the exact day she was born, as long as her birthday will be celebrated in the month of February,” said Miss Mguni.

Thirteen babies (eight girls and five boys) were born at Mpilo from midnight on 28 February to 3pm the following day while 12 newborns (seven girls and five boys) were delivered at the United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) during the same period.

Miss Mguni’s newborn will be too young to know the difference between a Leap Year and a regular year and why she only gets to celebrate her birthday on the exact day she was born once every four years. 

But the same cannot be said for Miss Nompilo Mlauzi, a Lupane State University student who started getting confused about the change in her birthdays when she was seven years old.

“My sixth birthday was on a Leap Year but the following year I was confused why my mother bought me a cake on the 28th of February and that is when she explained that I was different from other kids as I was born on a special day,” she said. 

“For my 8th birthday, she bought a cake in March and again explained how special my real birth date was because it comes once every four years. It feels awkward celebrating my birthday on the first of March when it’s not a Leap Year but I’m now used to it.”

TM Pick n Pay also joined in to celebrate the unique Leap Year birthdays by offering a free eight-inch cake to individuals born on 29 February. Those celebrating their birthdays only had to produce their identity card or original birth certificate, for the little ones, to claim their presents which were orange-coloured cakes. The orange color signifies solidarity with Orange Week, a campaign to raise awareness and funds to fight childhood cancer. Those who went early received the cakes while latecomers found the presents finished and were told to come and collect them the following day.   TM Pick n Pay officials referred further questions to their headquarters in Harare. 

For 36-year-old Bekithemba Mzwandile Mlotha, it feels like he is nine years old because he says he has only celebrated his birthday on 29 February nine times since he was born.

“When people ask me how old I am, I tell them I’m nine years old as of today (yesterday) because since I was born I have only experienced the feeling of a real birthday nine times. My birthday is going to be a year-long celebration since I only get to do it once every four years,” said Mr Mlotha.

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