An enduring 61-year-long love affair in a sea of divorce cases

Rudo Mataranyika Nyaungwa and her husband Jotham Manomano Nyaungwa

THE year was 1962.

This was the year the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the United States and the Soviet Union to the brink of nuclear war.

It was also in 1962 that the iconic American actress Marilyn Monroe tragically passed away, coincidentally on the backdrop of rumours that she had affairs with President John F Kennedy and his brother.

The late South African President Nelson Mandela was arrested and later convicted by the apartheid regime in this very eventful year.

It was in 1962 when the Zimbabwe African People’s Union, led by the late former Vice-President Joshua Nkomo was banned by the repressive colonial regime.

While the year was packed with events which intrigued the world, a less newsworthy function took place that year.

Sometime in March 1962, a humble wedding took place in Rusape, Manicaland province, about 170km east of Salisbury, now Harare.

The event, which was not attended by global leaders, businesspeople or the media, was a local affair celebrated by villagers from Rukweza and Mupambawashe.

Jotham Manomano Nyaungwa, then 28, from Mupambawashe village, married 20-year-old Rudo Mataranyika from Rukweza Village under Chief Makoni, after nearly two years of dating.

“Getting her was no easy feat. I had to be at my best to win her over and it took me several months,” Nyaungwa recalled.

“In her, I saw a proper woman and I did not give up despite her spirited attempts to push me away. The more she did that, the more I insisted. It was the best decision of my life,” Nyaungwa said with a naughty grin.

Fast forward six decades later, the couple is still together, enjoying a journey that blossomed from youthful love into a deep enduring bond.

In a world where marriage is fast becoming an empty ritual, waning in prominence, there are people like Sekuru and Gogo Nyaungwa who have mastered the art of respecting the institution of marriage and its requirements.

With local courts currently overwhelmed by scores of divorce cases, the love story of the Nyaungwas leaves many envious.

In a bid to understand what has made the couple inseparable in a journey surpassing half a century, NewsDay Weekender travelled to Rydale Ridge Park, about 24km west of Harare’s central business district, where the couple now resides.

The expansive yard, a lush canvas of green, is methodically manicured, showcasing a verdant lawn that feels like a soft embrace underfoot.

Rows of maize stand tall, their golden tassels dancing gently in the breeze.

Dominating this picturesque landscape is the main house, a magnificent structure that speaks volumes of tasteful architecture and refined aesthetics.

During the interview, one could not help but notice the aura of mature love in the house.

As Gogo Nyaungwa spoke, her husband watched her with a gentle and attentive gaze, hanging onto every word as if it were a precious gem.

Sekuru Nyaungwa’s love for his wife was evident in the smallest of gestures.

He would often reach out to hold her hand as she talked, his fingers lightly brushing against hers in a silent testament to their lifelong companionship.

Every time Gogo Nyaungwa laughed or smiled, his eyes sparkled with joy, reflecting the deep connection they shared.

However, life has not always been rosy for the couple.

“When we got married, life was not easy because of colonialism,” said Gogo Nyaungwa.

“Money was hard to come by, but I stuck with my husband because I respected him and everything he did for me and the family.

Nyaungwa, a former builder in then Salisbury, told NewsDay Weekemder that life under colonial rule was challenging, leading to the breakdown of many marriages.

He recalls enduring long, strenuous hours in construction, building structures his family would never have the chance to inhabit.

“I was paid something equivalent to US$5 a week, barely enough to feed my family, let alone provide for any sort of comfort or security,” he said.

The Nyaungwas had seven children, but two have since passed on.

Despite working away and visiting his family after one month or two, their marriage remained strong, underpinned by mutual faithfulness.

Nyaungwa also noted the loss of many friends and relatives to HIV and Aids in the 1980s, attributing it to infidelity.

“Besides being faithful, we also learnt to be responsible women,” said the couple’s daughter Sylvia.

“Our mother would manage everything at our rural home, from livestock to growing and selling maize to the Grain Marketing Board, among other things. That has helped me to be a better wife.”

However, to Gogo Nyaungwa, doing all this was not easy, adding that married people should understand that marriage life is not always rosy.

Things can get very ugly, but the key is understanding that couples are stronger together than when they are apart.

“In our early years in marriage, we sometimes struggled to buy decent clothes or eat good food, but we supported each other in everything,” Sekuru Nyaungwa said.

“Our love matured every time and it got to a point where at the height of the liberation war, I left work to be with my wife at our rural home. Some men called me weak for that decision, but the thought of one of us dying when one is away was unfathomable.”

His wife still respects him for that decision.

He expressed disappointment with the disrespect that dominates today’s marriages, arguing that when people lose respect for each other, there is no marriage to talk about.

Sekuru Nyaungwa is against a narrow understanding of respect, which focuses on respecting a partner in his or her presence.

“Respect also means considering your partner’s feelings even in her absence. If you do that, you will not entertain thoughts of sleeping around, something that is being normalised today,” he said.

This belief has been cascaded down to his children, who have learnt the importance of loving their partners consistently from their parents.

“We have learnt that marriage is a sacred union and I am yet to hear stories of my siblings having a child outside marriage because our father has always spoken against it,” said the couple’s son Hopewell.

“Additionally, we never saw our father physically assaulting our mother. From that, we learnt that domestic violence is not a solution to marital problems.”

Devout Seventh-Day Adventists, the couple thanks God for blessing them with life, love and children who have made it in various professions including law, business and health.

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