Nozizwe Mhlanga, whose first name translates to “mother of nations,” was born into a family of eight children. Her parents instilled in her the importance of helping the less fortunate – a virtue that would lead to great impact in her community. Here is her story:
I’m a mom of many, philanthropist, business owner, travel and media consultant and founder of Nozizwe Mother of Nations Trust. Our late father was a local business man, city father, president of Highlanders Bosso football club, Jonathan Temba Mhlanga.
My mother was the first black secretary at the Chronicle Newspaper in Bulawayo. I am also a qualified pharmacist and toxicologist. Every family member has a name that has become what we do in life or for a living. For instance, my brother is named Lizwi and is the “voice of the family.” He is a PR consultant professionally.
Tell us more about Nozizwe Mother of Nations Trust.
Nozizwe Trust came into being in a very unique way. I was born into a family of helpers as it were – people who were passionate about helping the less privileged. I was named after my fathers’ great-aunty who was a healer and looked after children and widows. She also formed a church many years ago. Helping people has always been a family thing and over the years, different family members had something to do with helping others in vulnerable communities.
Our family was blessed with the gift of working with our hands, and over the years, the proceeds from the businesses somehow looked after others. [It was] our way of giving back to society and carrying on our family tradition.
Nozizwe told The Weight She Carries that in 2018, two years after her father passed on, she had a unique experience in church one time. A pastor told her she would one day meet a homeless disabled man and that the experience would be the birth of something mind-blowing. Indeed, the prophecy came to light.
One day after visiting family lawyers to discuss family inheritance issues, I came across a disabled homeless man. I went an extra mile to feed him with the money I had been given. I had found him lying on the pavement after collapsing from hunger. I noted with concern how people walked past him, ignoring him.
After I made sure he was fine, I later took to social media and blogged about my experiences with this homeless man and the community reacted and started bringing me food and clothing and other items to help him. He in turn brought along other homeless people and the numbers grew from there. What I thought would be just that one act of kindness at the time turned out to be over 1,000. The trust was born using proceeds from my inheritance and a few dollars from well-wishers.
Tell us about your journey as the mother of a child with special needs.
My son Christian was born with bilateral talipes (double clubfoot). He had his first surgery when he was five months old when non-surgical intervention failed. I never had time to think or grieve, and I just accepted my child as he was. He grew up behaving like any other child even though he did not walk in the normal way. He was a happy child, quiet in public but full of mischief around family. Much support came from my in-laws, maternal grandparents, aunts and siblings.
Nozizwe explained that her son’s condition deteriorated as he grew older and she had to find help for him. She went back to social media and shared her story. Help came from strangers in Kenya who referred her to an orthopaedic hospital in Zambia.
We set off not knowing what to expect and my experience there afforded me my first close interactions with single mothers, orphans and disabled children.
I finally learnt that my son’s condition wasn’t my fault. I learnt that he was not the only child with health-related issues. I saw children with far worse disabilities than my son and that touched me. We blended in and adapted in a foreign country for the duration of his treatment, which by God’s grace was free till the age of 18…I learnt a lot about patience and love and giving and the kindness of strangers.
My most memorable times were being voted in by the public as Inspirational Woman of the Month and being honoured by several banks in Zimbabwe then getting calls from local famous soccer stars to international icons cheering me on and telling me not to give up.
What is your advice to women or people living with disabilities?
My advice is ‘speak out.’ Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Reach out to others; don’t hide in the shadows. Help comes from unlikely places.
I’m blessed with many wonderful people and corporate helpers who coordinate most, if not all, my workload. My biological children and my partners are a big part of what I do and are my biggest support. My partners and support have been especially from Partners Baker, Sara Smit, Lenox Mhlanga, Senzelwe Jubane, Muziwandile Dube, Francis K Asiedu.
My key achievements have been finally attaining international exposure for what we do in the back of beyond.
I can never get over how people on the other side of the globe follow what we do in various communities. It is inspiring to receive letters and messages of encouragement from all over the world.
I never really think about who is watching; for me, the biggest achievement is seeing a big smile on someone’s face. People become like family when we’re out there and I enjoy meeting people from all walks of life irrespective of the challenges they face. I’m just happy to be the reason someone smiles.
You can keep up with Nozizwe on the following platforms: