85-year old HIV+ mentor gets wheels

EIGHTY FIVE-YEAR-OLD Maruta Kraal Headman Robert Maruta, who revealed his HIV positive status last week, was all smiles after receiving a bicycle from two H-Metro readers.

Anemi Mangombe and his wife Sarah purchased a bicycle for the ‘headman’ who is popularly known as Sekuru Samba in Hwedza, Mashonaland East after learning about his story

In an interview with H-Metro, Sarah said they were touched by Sekuru Samba’s ordeal.

“I am excited to meet Sekuru Samba and that was my only dream after reading your story through H-Metro.

“It was so exciting yet painful to hear about your story, especially at your age. Volunteering to walk around villages educating people on HIV and AIDS is commendable.

“I was mostly moved when you said, mudzimai wangu akandisiya ndakanaka. You are a hero from Hwedza district and that is why we are donating this bicycle to you as a sign of motivating you to keep on mobilising more to know their HIV status,” she said.

Similar sentiments were echoed by her husband Anemi who urged Sekuru Samba to continue educating villagers.

“Looking at your age, many cannot do what you are doing, giving hope to those infected and educating those not yet.

“What touched us most as a family is that you are a traditional leader, you are the base of Zimbabwean law making. If all African traditional leaders would act like Sekuru Samba, our communities would be much safer.

“Imagine we are celebrating the Zimbabwean independence, brought by you our traditional leaders, it is joy after joy because Jesus is resurrecting again,” he said.

“Heroism starts by volunteering for your nation first, so you are a national hero in the prevention of all diseases, I say all diseases because it is the HIV virus which leaves one vulnerable to other diseases.”

Commenting after receiving his donation, which also included groceries, the visibly excited Sekuru Samba saluted the Harare couple.

“I really thank God for blessing me with the ability to do all this awareness work. I do not forget that I got very ill and suffered after my wife passed on.

“Later I got schooled about HIV & AIDS awareness at Mutambirwa village. They said my blood was now HIV+, they asked me again if I wanted ARVs. I accepted and went for a two-week ART course.

“We were put in groups from where I formed my group to avoid walking long distances to Mount St Mary’s Mission here in Hwedza.

“I was declared as its chairman, I organised for a meeting place, which happens to be my home.

“There are about six members there and my group has 12 members so far though many are asking if they can come to go for testing soon.

“I even encouraged the group to have road-runner (chickens), goat or gardening project for food and selling. I urge people to get tested,” he said.

A villager who was also touched by Sekuru samba saluted the headman for leading by example.

“This old man is our God given grandfather, imagine at his age, he is the one inviting and walking around with agronomists and inviting us to farm. He is helping his senior our headman sekuru Spear Mapfumo Maruta with all village duties needing travelling, he openly talks about his HIV status and educates and encourages us to go and get tested for HIV and cancer diseases at funerals or any village gatherings, kana pa borehole chaipo kana pachigayo vanosvika vago pupura kudzidzisa nezve zvirwere izvi. Vamwe vanovanongedza vachinyeya asi varikuvaterera, haa, varikuwanikwa miviriyavo ichisimukazve. Look at him now, he was ill but today he runs like a boy,” said the villager only identified as Amai Pattie Chidomaya.

The Maruta Kraal Headman heir apparent revealed that he got a bit promiscuous after his wife died in 2000 and was diagnosed HIV positive in 2008.

“My wife passed on in 2000 and left me 100 percent healthy at 66 years old. However, I failed to be a decent grandfather and started picking township girls, that’s how I got HIV. I even remember from who exactly,” said Sekuru Samba.

“Let us be decent when our partners die. God will guide us through.

“Now, as a grandfather at 84 years old, I am voluntarily footing across Hwedza villages, educating all ages on HIV and AIDS.

“Everyone, kana varungu, ma India chero mutema, chirikutambudza chirwere ichi, kana vakagadzira ndege chaivo vapererwa pachirwere ichi, hapana kana prophet achiwanira kana dombo rinochirapa – so I am going round urging people to stay away from unprotected sex, worse before marring each other.

“I am just footing around like an evangelist, those who are taking my advice are surviving.

“Then there are others who refuse to get tested and are gradually decomposing in silence until their HIV turns into full blown AIDS and eventually death. Chiyi chinorwadza mufi nevafirwa, kunyara kuno testwa HIV or kufa zvako neHIV usati wamboyedzawo mishonga kuti urarame sevamwe?” he said.

Sekuru Samba said it is his advocacy mission that has given him a new purpose in life.

“I am HIV positive but I have welcomed it as a blessing in disguise because I am now a tried and tested HIV awareness voluntary advocate. And it feels like I’m serving a purpose.

“Imagine, my mother, Mbuya VaEnia Nyakatanga Dapi and my father Ticharwa Maruta gave birth to me as a healthy Robert in 1934. Then later I got married to my healthy wife, Kirianah Rwizi Kwari from Mhondoro, Rwizi. We were blessed with two boys Vincent and Tawanda and four girls Yeukai, Anna and the late girls Norma and Tarisai Maruta. We were all healthy and that is what life should be. If people avoid sex before marriage or use protection when they have sex, we will have a healthy population. That is my message to my community.

“I am educating many, school children, mature youths, parents, elders and even those with visual impairments, physically challenged and mostly orphans or child headed families.

“I am travelling by foot, often visiting them and educating them that, if you have early sex before turning 18 years, before getting HIV and STIs tests, and worse unprotected sex with anyone whose status you do not know, you will get an incurable disease for life called HIV & AIDS.”

Sekuru Samba said there is need to assist those on ART as they lack supplementary food.

“I come across sick HIV victims desperately needing basic food because these HIV drugs can be difficult to take at first, especially if you do not have something to eat first before taking them.”


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