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Idayimana Emlotheni – Rachel Siziba Turns 100

Her secret to a long and healthy life lies in only one thing… her faith in God.

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Rachel Siziba at her 100th Birthday Celebrations and the Launch of her Book, Idayimana Emlotheni.
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A Brief Look At The Biography of Rachel Siziba, Written By Dr. Trust Sinjoki

At 100 years old, Rachel Siziba is still very strong, healthy, does not walk with the aid of a cane, and still has near-perfect eyesight. She still does chores around the house, and enjoys watching TV with her grandkids and her great grandkids. Believe it or not, Rachel is still even able to exercise, running up and down her driveway every now and then.

Dr. Trust Sinjoki, an accomplished author who has 12 books under his belt, 2 of which were co-authored, was given the honourable task of writing Rachel’s biography, which was launched on December 12th 2020, the day Rachel celebrated her 100th birthday. ‘Dr. Sinj’, as he is popularly known, took some time over the festive holidays to tell us a little about what motivated him to write the book, and what inspired the name of the book, which would become the 13th book which he wrote.

Idayimana Emlotheni - Rachel Siziba Turns 100 Asante Afrika Magazine
Dr. Trust Sinjoki, Author and Patron of Bless Africa Success International Community Summit.

In a country like Zimbabwe, where life expectancy is only around 61 years old, turning 100 is quite a huge achievement. How did you find out about Rachel Siziba, and when approached to write her biography by her granddaughter, what inspired your decision to agree to the offer? 

I met Lindiwe, one of Rachel’s granddaughters, in Melbourne, Australia, where she is based, while I was there on ministry work in 2013. Lindiwe and I struck up a business relationship, as we were both training students from the National University of Science and Technology (NUST), in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, in a course to look after the aged (Aged Care Level Four Certificate), a programme of which I am the Director in Zimbabwe.

Idayimana Emlotheni - Rachel Siziba Turns 100 Asante Afrika Magazine
Lindiwe, Rachel’s Granddaughter.

It is only around September 2020 that Lindiwe mentioned that her grandmother would be turning 100 years of age in December 2020. Lindiwe asked me if I would be interested in writing her grandmother’s biography, and after hearing the synopsis of the story, I found it extremely intriguing; and of course, I immediately agreed to the offer.

Excited by this offer, I got to work immediately, setting up several interviews with Rachel Siziba, meeting her for the first time, and spending hours with her, listening to her story and recording each and every detail, breaking down the biography into several chapters. Lindiwe and I debated on whether the book should be written in isiNdebele or English, and Lindiwe suggested that Rachel would enjoy it more if it is was written in isiNdebele, as they intended to read it to her, night after night, chapter by chapter. It was also decided that the book would later be translated to English, as most of Rachel’s grandchildren are in the diaspora, and are also very keen on reading the book.

The book is titled “Idayimana Emlotheni’, which is translated to mean ‘A Diamond In The Ashes’. How did you come up with that name, and what makes it so fitting to this particular story?

Searching for the title of the book was not a very difficult task, because what immediately struck me was the fact that, “Here is a diamond, which has been hidden under the ashes all her life, yet now she emerges as this shining bright star, that wakes up to live life to its fullest, at 100 years of age, and also guides her offspring through her wealth of wisdom.”

Idayimana Emlotheni - Rachel Siziba Turns 100 Asante Afrika Magazine
Printed Copies of Idayimana Emlotheni

Rachel Siziba had a tough life from a very young age. Can you tell us about her early years briefly?

Rachel was born the eldest of five children in the Siziba family in Mberengwa, and she estimates that when she was around nine or ten years old, her father died, leaving his poor wife alone with five children to look after. Having been left widowed, Rachel’s mother was not used to the culture of being given her husband’s younger brother as her ‘replacement’ husband, because that practice did not exist in Filabusi, Matabeleland, where she hailed from. She therefore rejected that offer when her in-laws suggested it. When they tried to force it on her, she chose to leave Mberengwa, and went back to her rural home, leaving behind her four children, and only taking her youngest baby. Rachel was left to fend for herself and her siblings in the hands of this uncle who had been meant to take their father’s place, and he was extremely tough on them, and very, very, abusive. Every morning and evening her uncle would whip Rachel with a sjambok as punishment, for this reason or another, and Rachel tried to run away from Mberengwa to go to Filabusi to her mother’s village, quite a number of times, unsuccessfully. One time Rachel and her young brother were just about to arrive in Filabusi, after having run away and walked all night, when they were caught by their uncle and dragged back, kicking and screaming.

Can you briefly describe Rachel’s days as a young woman and the challenges that she faced? How did she overcome those challenges? 

When she became a teenager, Rachel finally managed to run away to Filabusi, in search of a better life at her maternal relatives’ village. She moved in to her maternal uncle’s homestead, but unfortunately for her, things did not get better at all, as this uncle also found pleasure in abusing Rachel. As she became a bit older, she decided to give marriage a go, but she says that did not work out for her at all. After having five children of her own from different relationships, and not having gotten married to any of these men, that meant that now she was really in trouble, because she now had to figure out how she would look after her children. This period of her early life is what I refer to in the book as Rachel being a diamond which is being formed in the coals and ashes, under intense heat and pressure.

Over the years, her own children became parents as well, and eventually, Rachel now had nine grandchildren which she had to look after, on top of some of her own children who were not working. Fending for this large family was no easy feat, and Rachel says that is when her faith kicked in. She met some missionaries from the Lutheran church who instantly took a liking to her, and would assist in looking after her and her family. Her faith grew through the teachings of the missionaries, and that is when she says she started to see the hand of God in her life, especially in terms of provision.

Life got better for Rachel in her golden years. Can you describe to us how and when her life changed and she finally began to enjoy life?

Rachel’s faith was the key to her life starting to change. The more she prayed for her children and grandchildren, the more she began to see their lives change for the better, she says. Eventually, her grandchildren became educated and moved overseas. Lindiwe in particular, moved to the diaspora and was able to buy a house in the suburbs of Bulawayo, where her mother and her great-grandmother Rachel are now staying. In gratitude to her great-grandmother who looked after them through the toughest of times, Lindiwe makes sure that all of Rachel’s needs are taken care of.

Idayimana Emlotheni - Rachel Siziba Turns 100 Asante Afrika Magazine
Rachel Siziba with her young sister (left) and her daughter in the middle (Lindiwe’s mother)

Rachel watched her life take a three-sixty degree turn, and she went from moving around neighbours’ homesteads begging for food to feed her family, to being treated as the queen which she is at her granddaughter’s home. She has even become a tourist, and will fondly tell you of her visits to the Victoria Falls and to different wildlife parks, things which she could have never dreamt of before.

Rachel, at 100 years old, still has such a sharp memory, walks on her own without the aid of a walking stick, and can still see very well. Did she share with you the secret of how she managed to stay so strong and fit for so many years? 

Rachel says her secret to a long and healthy life lies in only one thing… her faith in God. When she was younger, Rachel would move from village to village praying for people, and through that, she would see the wonders which God did through prayer such as healing people. Therefore, she says she never doubted that God would one day change her life for the better.

Besides living a healthy life and exercising regularly, Rachel says she thoroughly enjoys watching movies, especially Bollywood movies, and she says she considers most of them as parables which she uses to minister to people and to her great-grandchildren. Rachel also enjoys singing at church and again, she alludes that it is her faith which has given her the strength to keep going and to stay alive.

Idayimana Emlotheni - Rachel Siziba Turns 100 Asante Afrika Magazine
Rachel cutting her 100th birthday cake with the assistance of Mrs. Nhira (left).

As an author, you learn a lot from interviewing the people you write about. What was your big take-home lesson from Rachel Siziba’s story? 

Definitely, as an author, I have read, interacted with and interviewed a lot of people, but the one important thing which I noticed from interviewing this centenarian, is that Rachel is only but one example of many diamonds in the ashes in Zimbabwe, and in Africa as a whole, who are thrown away to die in the rural areas or in aged people’s homes, and yet packed in these elderly folks are stories that I, personally, as an author, would like to see being written and shared for the whole world to read. It’s really sad that in Africa, a lot of our elderly people are dying with their priceless wealth and treasure of historical stories. When I was in Australia, I visited the Holocaust Survivors Home, and I had the privilege of meeting and talking to a 106 year old lady and a man who were victims of the Holocaust, and they were telling me all about Hitler and how it was living during that time. It’s a good thing which is being done in countries like Australia to preserve history.

Idayimana Emlotheni - Rachel Siziba Turns 100 Asante Afrika Magazine
Rachel Siziba with Dr. Sinjoki (left), as Dr. Nhira (right) commissions the book.

It saddened me that a few weeks ago in Esigodini, Matabeleland, a 115 year old man died, and had I known him before he died, I would have loved to meet with him and extract all kinds of information from him. Fortunately, I do have the privilege of visiting Ekuphumuleni Old People’s Home in Bulawayo every Sunday to sing with the elderly patrons there, and it always amazes me how even those that are approaching 100 years old are still so sharp, and there is so much gold hidden in these elderly gems. One can only wish to see more scholars, more authors, and certainly more grandchildren, as did Lindiwe, sponsoring and writing books about the lives of their elderly folks, and not letting them die with their wealth of knowledge and talents.

Idayimana Emlotheni - Rachel Siziba Turns 100 Asante Afrika Magazine
Rachel Siziba with her Biographer, Dr. Trust Sinjoki

Rachel’s story is a moving story of someone who went from zero to hero, which also taught me that every cloud has a silver lining. Rachel teaches us not to give up during our struggles, because if you believe, some day things will change, and your diamond will emerge from the coals and the ashes and shine ever so bright.

To get a copy of Idayimana Emlotheni, to get more of his books, or to have your own biography written, Connect with Dr. Sinj. via the following platsforms:

doctorsinj@gmail.com

PAWC Radio Zimbabwe, http://tun.in/sfxHb

+263772828281

Interviewed by Gugu Mpofu

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Lifestyle

Unprepared and Offended

We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters. ~ Gloria Steinem

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Hazel Lifa

For years tension has been building between the sexes, a battle line has been drawn, and if we are being honest, noone knows when this happened. It is evident in movements like the Men’s Rights Movement and the christened ‘Third Wave of Feminism’. Somehow it has become a ‘Men vs. Women’ world in a reality where we honestly need each other to evolve and survive.

“It is time that we all see gender as a spectrum instead of two sets of opposing ideals”.

emma watson

In a past article I spoke about how of late we tend to make everything about gender; a man behaves badly, it’s because he is a man. If a woman abuses her spouse, it is because she is a woman and privileged. In our bid to simplify the issues each sex meets in life and figuring out who’s to blame, we have cultivated so much contempt and mistrust. According to actress, Emma Watson, “It is time that we all see gender as a spectrum, instead of two sets of opposing ideals”.

Unprepared and Offended Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Emma Watson 

I recently had a conversation with an educated lady who pointed out a huge factor in the case of the modern woman and man. Men and boys were never prepared for the empowered, educated and powerful woman point-blank. Think about it; when you are born into societies where two parties hold such suspicion and resentment towards each other, what happens when we try to evolve and grow? Further misunderstanding and skepticism, and the game of broken telephone continues.

“…I will go as far as to say the modern woman is seen as less than.”

Whether it be in the African setting or European household, women have generally played the subservient role; treed away from major roles in powerful spaces like politics or law enforcement, asked only to entertain with their feminine appealing looks, and valued for procreation.

With the rise of feminism, women were encouraged to be just as daring as men, confident, and commanding. Women started entering the workforce, voting, started businesses… oh what a time it was! However, no one thought to prepare boys and men for this evolution of the woman, and unfortunately, it has ended in a stand-off.

The modern-day educated and working woman is often persecuted and made to feel guilty for having aspirations beyond a household and a spouse. Speaking from an African perspective, I will go as far as to say the modern woman is seen as less than. I have been genuinely warned to not get ‘too educated’, as I will be hard to marry off.

“We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.”

Gloria Steinem

On a social level, boys and men have and are still being taught that to be a ‘man’, a woman or several have to be at their mercy, inferior, and often in a position of humiliation. A woman being intelligent and insightful is equated to a man being less than. One would think that logically, having a working and educated wife would add to the quality of an ideal spouse and life partner. Many households are plagued with violence of all kinds created by insecurities which young boys are taught and carry into adulthood.

The tension has gotten to a point where women are either taking too long to marry, or forgoing the experience altogether. Such actions will have ramifications on society, but the biggest question is whether they will be positive or negative? One asks, “Ok, we have identified the issue, now how do we correct it?” The truth is that the fix is tedious, and it requires dedication from parents and adults around young boys. In the famous words of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “Culture does not make people. People make culture.”

Unprepared and Offended Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

The perception of the opposite sex and the dynamics of man and woman are topics taught from the tender stage of infancy, hence the nuclear family unit is where the work should start. Boys should be taught that it’s ok if a girl is better than you in a sport or at a job, her capabilities shouldn’t translate to your self-worth. “We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters,” says Gloria Steinem. 

Let us be brave enough to teach boys to not see girls as the benchmark of weakness and inadequacy. Teach boys to not to be sore losers who rather than be motivated to do better next time, lash out at girls and women who excel. Let us make phrases like ‘throws like a girl‘, ‘fights like a girl’, a positive thing; if I am a girl, how else am I to throw, fight, etc.?

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Lifestyle

#BlackGirlMagic

Zambian professional soccer star, Barbara Banda made history at the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo by becoming the first woman to achieve multiple hat tricks in a single Olympic event.

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Image: Zambian professional football star, Barbara Banda
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Hazel Lifa

They say it’s better late than never. The month of August’s significance is one that originated in South Africa after more than 20 000 women from all walks of life united in a mass demonstration walking towards the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

#BlackGirlMagic Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Women’s March for Human Rights 1956

The strength and audacity exercised by women like Helen Joseph and Albertina Sisulu on August 9th 1956 are virtues that young African and black women alike can look up to in today’s world. For this year’s just ended National Women’s Month, I would like to shine a bright light on the black girl magic that has been going around in Africa and around the globe lately.

It is the time of the black woman to shine, not to say she couldn’t before, but the world right now is giving black women, as they say these days, ‘their roses while they’re alive to smell them’.

I will kick off this magical show with a feat I am sure many will agree is a game-changer. Kamala Devi Harris, the 49th Vice President of U.S.A. This biracial black woman of South Asian descent is moving in circles which women with any trace of melanin complexion couldn’t even dream of being included in for centuries. Harris’ position as Vice President of the most powerful nation on the planet gives women of colour, old and young, a sense of pride.

#BlackGirlMagic Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Vice President Kamala Harris

Her success also gives us another platform to discuss and grow; Harris’ sex and race are not all she is but they play a large role in the world she lives in. With time we can only hope the novelty wears off.

Zambian professional football star, Barbara Banda made history at the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo. She has become the first woman to achieve multiple hat tricks in a single Olympic event. The Zambian Women’s soccer squad’s captain is the first African woman to achieve a hat trick in Olympic history ever. Furthermore, she now holds the women’s record for most Olympic goals scored by an African. The 21-year-old is a striker who began her professional career in 2018 playing with Logrono in Spain; she scored 16 goals in 28 games. Banda came to the Olympics an unknown, but has left a name for the history books.

#BlackGirlMagic Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Barbara Banda in a Zambia vs. China Olympics match

Earlier this year we were impressed and elated to learn that the Miss South Africa pageant would be opening its doors to Transgender participants. Lehlogonolo Machaba took this invitation and ran with it, becoming the first openly transgender participant to make the top 30 of the competition.

#BlackGirlMagic Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Miss SA Finalist Letlogonolo Machaba

“Everything I do as a dark-skinned, transgender woman is a statement. My mere existence in society is threatening, and there’s a lot of closet transgender women who are afraid to come out in fear of receiving hate and even worse, being killed. By doing this I am helping all those women to know that there’s still hope and the world is changing for good, slowly but surely,” Machaba said.

Machaba works as a model booker at Invade Models, and is also the founder of the DeMollies fashion brand. She has a Diploma in Fashion Design technology from the Tshwane University of Technology.

Hailing from the western African nation of Nigeria is innovator and businesswoman, Oluwayimika Angel Adelaja. Adelaja’s two businesses Fresh Direct Produce and We Farm Africa are innovating farming technology, a feat that couldn’t come at a better time considering global warming and all. Adelaja is leading the crowd with her revolutionary stackable container farms that ease the strain on land use and opens up the world of fresh quality food to urban populations.

#BlackGirlMagic Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Oluwayimika Angel Adelaja
#BlackGirlMagic Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Oluwayimika Angel Adelaja at one of her container farms

Adelaja’s organic urban farms require way less land and water in comparison with traditional farming methods, and all while producing a yield 15times higher. Adelaja’s food shortage solutions and farming techniques all work towards creating a cohesive agricultural chain of production and creates opportunities for Africans. Adelaja also works towards the empowerment of women and developmental economics, and still holds positions like Special Assistant to the Senior Special Adviser to the President on Poverty Alleviation and National Coordinator and Consultant to the Senior Special Adviser to the President on Wealth Creation.

In the world of poetry, Dasha Kelly Hamilton is the first black woman to be named the Wisconsin Poet Laureate in its 20years of existence. Her primary objective as the award holder is to be an ambassador who encourages poetry throughout her tenure of 2years. Hamilton will be receiving a stipend of US$2,500 and a residency at Shake Rag Alley Centre for Arts in Mineral Point.

#BlackGirlMagic Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Dasha Kelly Hamilton

Brenda Katwesigye saw something broken in a system and set out to correct it; the result is Wazi Vision. The Ugandan native became concerned with the high cost of eyecare back in 2015 during a personal visit and launched Wazi Vision in 2016. Wazi Vision provides free eyes tests at schools and rural areas; the startup has even developed an app that incorporates virtual reality in visual tests.

#BlackGirlMagic Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: Brenda Katwesigye

The company also uses recycled materials in manufacturing their glasses which cuts the cost of glasses. In 2018, Wazi Vision was named in the Forbes Top 60 Woman-led Startups that are shaking up Africa, and Katwesigye was named as one of Quartz Africa’s top 30 Innovators. I could go on and on, black girl magic is upon us, and backwards never my melanin beauties.

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The Strength Of A Woman – Celebrating National Women’s Month

To be a woman is to reject being known as a strong woman, because our value goes beyond our expectation to be confronted by pain.

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Image: @remyshoots Photography
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Reflections By Rorisang Moyo

Kumkanikazi. Mofumahadi. Mfumukazi. Queen.

You are most of the time overlooked, undermined,
stifled, frustrated. Scorched by fire, dipped in water;
yet pressure does not end you, it elevates you to
your fullest potential.

This does not mean that to be a woman means
pain is romanticised. To be a woman is to reject
being known as a strong woman, because our value
goes beyond our expectation to be confronted by
pain.

The Strength Of A Woman - Celebrating National Women's Month Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: @remyshoots Photography

To be a woman means to feel things deeply in
their entirety, to be at one with the earth and how it
works. After all, it is through us that great men and
women continue to be born, and to take their place
on this earth.

Woman means beauty, strength, community,
trendsetter, lover, and fighter. To be a girl child and
a daughter, means potential and endless possibilities.

The privilege of standing on the shoulders of
giants, a community of other women; women who
have paved the way for you to live without any barriers – ever-changing, limitless and fluid.

The Strength Of A Woman - Celebrating National Women's Month Asante Afrika Magazine
Image: @remyshoots Photography

No person alive can put a lid on the power of woman.

Photography by Jeremy Kupfuwa, IG @remyshoots

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