Widowhood is a painful and traumatizing experience. The death of a spouse causes mental anguish that only time can heal. Haruchemwi Nhengu narrated to The Weight She Carries how she was abandoned before and after the death of her husband by her in-laws. What follows is her account of what happened:
My name is Haruchemwi Nhengu. l am 45 years and was born in Chivi, Zimbabwe, and attended school in the same area. l later relocated to Chipinge which is where l met my now-late husband.
During our marriage, l had no problem at all with my husband. We were happy. He was an only child and would often refer to himself as being a loner. Coming from a polygamous family of two sisters married to one man meant there was competition. He was an only child, but on the other hand, his mother’s sister had many children.
In 2014, my husband was incarcerated for his involvement in politics. He served a 90-day sentence and fell very ill. Numerous tests were done but the results showed nothing. I informed his relatives of his illness, but none of them cared to even visit, so l suffered alone with hospital visits and the children.
The sickness got so critical and l would continually inform the in-laws of every development but no one was moved to do anything. l was told to do everything on my own. It was very difficult because my husband would insist that l had not communicated with his family.
One evening after seeing that his condition had further deteriorated, l informed one of his siblings of the situation but the response l got was insults. l was basically told that no help would come from them at all! It was as if the phone call was a bad omen because the following day, my husband succumbed to his illness. l found the hospital bed empty. I was devastated.
Since the in-laws had declared that no help would come from them, it meant that l would have to see to the burial arrangements. Some party members chipped in, but we still needed the involvement of his family, so his uncle had to come. He was the only one willing to help and we laid my husband to rest.
The surprising thing is that when my husband was well and working, his family would always seek help from him. But when it was their turn to reciprocate, everyone abandoned him.Haruchemwi Nhengu
In 2015, the same year my husband passed away, my first born had completed his Advanced Level and did very well. As we were still mourning his father, my son suffered mental instability suddenly. We had to tie him down with ropes to keep him in the yard. I did not know what was happening, so we sought help from various spiritualists as well as herbalists.
I remember a day when he ran out of the yard. We searched high and low only for him to be returned home by a neighbour who knew him. These were trying times, and still my husband’s relatives would not assist as usual.
(After this trying time, Haruchemwi had to find her footing as a widow and single mother. It was difficult, but through the help of fellow church members who empowered her to work for her family, she is now able to take care of her household single-handedly. In 2018, she contested for a town council seat and won against three men and another woman.)
I was very happy to have won the seat in Ward 5, Chipinge, but l still face challenges, especially from the men who do not accept that a woman can address them whilst they are seated. But l press on, no matter the discrimination. Right now, l work with women and girl groups. I facilitate seminars and workshops to help empower them to become self-sufficient women.
My advice to fellow widows and women in general is that as painful as it is to lose a spouse, we must not stay in the pain. Give yourself time to mourn, but remember that you now have double responsibility that [requires] double the effort.
(Haruchemwi aspires to remain as ward councillor in the next term whilst she works herself up to district level.)