The side of Grace Mugabe you didnot know

the grace mugabe i knowNaomi Tsitsi Tseriwa, a junior doctor at Harare Central Hospital has spoken of how the First Lady, Grace Mugabe changed her life. Dr Tseriwa tells The Sunday Mail her story.

I was born on October 23, 1987, the sixth in a family of eight. I aspired to be a doctor. I held this dream dear, ever hoping it would come true. I attended Courtney Selous Primary School, Harare, and later Monte Cassino Girls High School in Macheke.

But in 2004, something tragic happened. My father died. He was the breadwinner; what was I to do now that he was gone?

My world seemed to crumble. My future looked bleak. I became an orphan, having lost my mother earlier when I was in Grade 5. Nonetheless, something was brewing on the horizon, a great distance from our home in Harare’s Kuwadzana suburb.

The First Lady was initially assisting my brother who was in her son’s class at Kutama.

When my father passed away, she wanted to pay her condolences. We all went to State House, my siblings and I.

That was the first time we met her. I was in Form 4 then, a week or two before I started my final examinations. Turning to me, she asked, “What do you think you are going to get in your examinations?” I told her I would pass and that I wanted to be a doctor.

In turn, she said she wanted me to go to St Dominic’s (Chishawasha).

My only response was, “Oh, okay.”

When she said it, I thought she was just saying it, for the sake of it.

I was not exactly sure what was going to happen afterwards.

My father had just passed away. My future was bleak because I did not know what would happen after my Ordinary Level now that the breadwinner was gone.

My elder siblings were still in school. None of them was capable of taking over the responsibility.

The eldest was in varsity. The third born is my brother, Gideon. He was doing IT. And then the fourth born was in Advanced Level, Upper Six.

It was two weeks before my examinations. I was not focusing on anything, but my examinations. I thought I should focus on the immediate, which was passing.

I proceeded to write my examinations.

When my O Level results came out, l passed with six ‘A’s, three ‘B’s and a ‘C’.

The First Lady’s sister, Amai Chidhakwa, helped me get my uniform, trunk; reorganised me for school at St Dominic’s. The pass mark at St Dominic’s was 5 ‘A’s and above. I had six ‘A’s, three ‘B’s and a ‘C’. I got a place.

So, I went to St Dominic’s.

I did Mathematics, Biology and Chemistry. This is what I wanted because I have always wanted to be a doctor.

Around the time A Level results were released, the secretary, Mrs Gumbo, called my sister and said Mama, referring to the First Lady, says you should go and collect your results because we have to organise for you to go to varsity.

That’s when we met the First Lady, the second time around. She proposed that we go and live with her uncle in Mazowe. So, that’s where I stayed in 2005 and 2006 when I was doing my A Levels.

She used to come to the farm three times a week and I would meet her.

And yes, my sister, Greater, did go to university. She went to Fort Hare to study law. She is a lawyer now.

I kept staying with the First Lady’s aunt and uncle, and they would visit me at boarding school as well. I was practically their child. They treated me like their own.

The First Lady provided everything — uniforms . . . everything, even my spectacles. I started wearing spectacles in 2002. They expired at some point, and she paid my medical bills. I got new spectacles, clothes and everything!

When I went to school, she bought groceries, the fees were paid. Anything school-related, I would just call her. Perhaps a rise in fees, she would come through.

If I were to get sick, she would pay my medical bills. She would come to see me despite being a busy woman. At school, we were only allowed visitors during visiting times. So, I used to see her during the holidays.

She was happy when I passed my O Levels. She called while I was in Mazowe and said to her aunt, “Please make her a nice meal. I am very happy. She made me proud.

“She passed and she will be going for her A Levels. She is definitely going to be a doctor, what she wants to be.” And when I passed A Level, she was also very happy.

I am graduating next week, and she is again very happy. Every time I speak to her, she mentions it. “Thank you for making me proud. You managed to finish school; you did the right thing.”

But then at the bottom of my heart I just say, “It is actually supposed to be the other way around. I should be the one thanking you because you are the one who made it possible for me to be where I am.”

I was in shock (when Amai Mugabe took me under her wing). I still am. I have known her since 2004, but every time I think about it, I am in disbelief.

God is amazing. He facilitated our meeting so that she could put me through the rest of my school and take care of me, which is amazing.

It’s not easy for one to look after someone they don’t even know. Someone they are not even related to. Someone they don’t owe anything. I was very grateful and I still am.

I don’t know how many times I have said thank you. I don’t know what to do to show my gratitude. I just don’t know.

Do we have a mother-and-child relationship? Yes, we do. We are very close. We discuss very personal issues. I am not afraid of telling her anything. Sometimes when I am feeling low, I just call her and tell her that I am sad, depressed.

If I am not feeling well, I tell her. If I miss her, I tell her. And when I am free, I try as much as possible to visit her as well as the children at the orphanage. She counsels me, just like any mother would her daughter, and I feel better afterwards.

I have a mother figure and I do not feel orphaned. She has managed to do so many things that I never dreamt in my life. I actually went to the University of Pretoria in my fourth year for my elective attachment and she funded it as well.

I got the experience in a different country, different education and different hospital set-up than the one we are used to here. She really does her best. She helps with all her heart. She does not compare to say this is my own flesh and blood, this is not.

When she has chosen to assist you, she does it all the way through.

She does not give second-hand clothes or second-hand anything. Sometimes she brings me clothes when she goes out of the country. She has done countless things.

She is amazing. I would describe her as loving. She is caring. She is spiritual.

She is someone who when she sets her mind to do something, she carries it through. I remember, before the orphanage, she mentioned it as though it were a mere story. She said she wanted to build a home for children who are less-fortunate and as you know, it is there in Mazowe.

She manages to do what she plans to do. She does it with all her heart. She is really hard-working.

Considering the loads of things she has to do as the First Lady of the country, she actually has the time to have personal interactions with people like me and go to the home.

I have learnt that when you love, you should love whole-heartedly. You also give whole-heartedly. You should not do sub-standard things in life. You should do things to the best of your ability because that’s what she does and that’s what I learnt from her.

She is also very spiritual. We pray together. She tells me that in life you cannot do anything without God. I cannot brag that I am very spiritual, but I am a better person since meeting her; spiritually and in terms of giving and working.

She really likes people who work hard. She does not like to see people being idle. She wants people to really work hard so that they become something in life and they are not looked down upon by others.

Initially, we did not talk about it much (this assistance from the First Lady). It is only recently that people have become aware of it. Only close family knew that she was taking care of us. But everyone else thought it was the siblings doing the trick.

It is just that she is not a person who brags. But they (relatives and siblings) are really grateful. I am so grateful to her and to God.

God is the one who made me meet her in the first place. It was by His design anyway. I was meant to be a doctor somehow. My funds for school were supposed to come from somewhere and they did.

I thank Him very much and thank her for being the mother figure in my life.

I don’t want to lose her.

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