Swaziland: A grandmother who has stood the test of time and character

Swaziland: A grandmother who has stood the test of time and character

Date: August 15, 2012
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Mbabane, 15 August – Visiting Gogo Margaret Gamedze at Ekwendzeni, a fifteen minutes drive from Hlathikulu town, in Shiselweni, South of Swaziland has always been my pleasant experience. In early August this year, I set on a journey to visit Gogo Gamedze. Upon arrival, as a workaholic that I have always known her to be, I found Gogo returning from the garden several meters down the home fields. With dirty hands, she shook my hand as we exchanged greetings.

The retired teacher affectionately called Gogo Gamedze, by both children and adults has always been passionate about education. She has always encouraged the education of both the girl and the boy child. At home, after performing domestic responsibilities with my younger sister Gcebile Simelane, Gogo made it a point that we had time for our schoolwork.

At times she found herself living in mud houses at remote schools in rural Swaziland. However, she endured selflessly the heinous pre-independent teaching challenges. “Wind’s of change were sweeping across the continent; however, my enthusiasm was to teach Swazi children to lead the country upon liberation,” she said.

While growing-up with my Gogo, I learnt valuable life-skills that have shaped my character and my interactions as far as community life is concerned.

Back in the day, she insisted on prayer before we went to bed. She would lead us in song, read a passage from the bible and then pray. We often complained but now, I realise that she was teaching us about the importance of faith.

In the crisp of dawn each day, Gogo would come to our respective rooms and wake us up. We took turns to prepare thin porridge or sour porridge. If it was not your turn, you would study.

She barely entertained the prevailing notion that there are duties for males and duties for females. All domestic chores were shared equally irrespective of sex. Considering the socialisation in the home and also in the community, I often thought of Gogo as an unfair person. I would grumble at why I had to do women’s work. Gcebile and I took turns to prepare meals, walked to fetch water in the morning or late afternoon.

Gogo might not know it, but she has modeled my life. I have respect for women’s fortitude, power and influence.

Gamedze endured pain in her life, she never married and her relationships with men never worked out. She has since lost two children under mysterious circumstances.

She has taught one trick about life, to forgive and let go. Even with the pain of losing her children, she remained strong, focused and raised us with love. She never vented her frustrations and anger on us.

In Swaziland, a male figure is always behind the successful running of a homestead. Gogo has proven otherwise, she built and runs her own homestead. Several men have tried to win Gogo’s hand in marriage. Our polygamous neighbour once tried his luck but Gogo turned him down because she had already read his mind. We later learnt that the neighbour wanted to make our homestead part of his property upon marrying Gamedze. My grandmother has always been strong willed and has taught me to always stand by what I say. I have also learnt to respect women and not view them as property that can be acquired for selfish reasons.

Gogo has taught me to be hospitable and generous. At times Gcebile and myself would strongly disapprove of her helping certain individuals who had wronged her. Some neighbours would let their animals eat vegetables in Gogo’s garden. The next day they would come to our homestead to ask for maize meal. Gogo would give it to them. As kids we would hit the roof about that gesture.

Looking back, I realise that she taught us to live peacefully with all members in the community, irrespective of their shortcomings. To some degree she has taught me to be generous though I must admit that I can never reach Gogo’s standards. If a neighbour allows his or her animals into my garden, they should never expect to receive assistance from me.

I celebrate her for improving the lives of many even though her own has not been so smooth. Gcebile and I can’t wait to celebrate her 80th birthday next year.

Phathizwe-Chief Zulu is a journalist at The Nation in Swaziland. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service, special series on celebrating phenomenal women, bringing you fresh views on everyday news.



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