BATANAI Old Peoplea��s Home in Gweru is a rather sombre and tired domicile, quite synonymous with any old peoplea��s home.
When I arrived at the home recently, a mournful atmosphere greeted me.
A dull, faded, white apartment with a corrugated roof stood defiantly as the only structure in the rumpled old peoplea��s home yard with parched and aged gumtrees scattered around.
Five elderly people sat forlornly on rugged two-legged timber benches under a gumtree, some with heads resting in their palms a�� without speaking to each other.
Their minds apparently deeply fixated to some thought that not even one of them cared to acknowledge the noise my approaching car produced.
They were all in a sad mood, mourning the passing on of one of their inmates, Gogo Laizah Ndebele (81).
The old peoplea��s home caregivers found Gogo Ndebele dead in her bed and they had just relayed the sad news to her fellow inmates, plunging the home into mourning.
a�?Gogo Ndebele died recently and everyone here is still mourning her passing away. She was a real charmer to her colleagues. She used to talk a lot and always said things that would make everyone laugh. She was a unique breed of an old woman with a long beard and people would come to just see her and listen to her story telling antics,a�? explained one of the old peoplea��s caregivers, Sinikiwe Chirai.
During her life, Gogo Ndebele made headlines in the Press for sporting a long goatee-beard which she used to nurture while at the home.
Touted as the Zimbabwea��s longest bearded woman, Gogo Ndebele had a flourishing moustache with a soul patch under the lower lip.
Originally from Gokwe, Gogo Ndebele came to Batanai Old Peoplea��s Home about 10 years ago after her relatives allegedly rejected her because of her hormonal condition.
At the home, she started nurturing her beard, making her a rare kind of woman.
a�?During my days as a teenage girl I would spend most of my time trying to bust my beard, shaving and at times using match sticks to burn out my bushy chin. This did little help and for a woman in our society to grow beard ita��s a curse, they call you names and owing to my condition, I grew up a laughing stock in the village,a�? revealed Gogo Ndebele in an interview with Zimpapers Syndication Services then.
With all men shunning her, she had to develop the guts and approached a village man before proposing love to him.
Luckily the man accepted her and they were married for 40 years but as fate would have it, they could not bear any child until her husband died many years ago.
Gogo Ndebele revealed then that she struggled to live in the village following the death of her husband and she had to seek refuge at the old peoplea��s home. a�� Zimpapers Syndication Services