When silent love, resilience win the day

Maxwell and Bertha Mubvumi with their children

THERE is an age-old Shona vernacular saying which states: “Mwoyo muti unomera paunoda”, which literally means love is like a tree which grows wherever it desires, be it a on a rock, in the desert or in the water.

So love is that invisible thread which ties hearts together, no matter their colour, creed, race or origins. It is like a warm, gentle light which shines even in the darkest times, such as war, reminding us there is still hope.

So powerful and enduring is love that the gripping story of a hearing and speech impaired couple Maxwell and Bertha Mubvumi from Rydale Ridge Park, about 24km Southwest of Harare says it all.

Curious to understand their enduring love story, NewsDay travelled to the middle-density suburb for a chat.

In the presence of an interpreter Florence Chakandinakira, the Mubvumis narrated how tough life has been for them since their early years in rural Nyanga and Headlands.

For Bertha, life has not been kind.

Her mother abandoned her as a baby when she realised she had a hearing impairment.

“To know that the very person who should have been there for me walked away is a wound that cuts right into the heart. This kind of hurt is deep and requires so much strength and time to heal from,” she sorrowfully told NewsDay.

Bertha, now 27, still feels the pain of her mother’s decision to abandon her which left her in the hands of a stepmother.

As if being rejected by her mother was not enough, Bertha was raped by a man who, sadly, has never been caught. She gave birth to a daughter who is currently residing in Mutare.

This horrible event in her life is a painful reminder of a bigger problem of how some men take advantage of girls with disabilities, seeing them as easy targets.

The perverted predators exploit the differently abled’s vulnerability, completely disregarding their humanity.

About 135km from where Bertha lived, Maxwell was experiencing his fair share of problems.

“I am the only person in my family with this condition and it affected my education. I did not proceed beyond Grade Seven because of financial issues as well as the shortage of sign language teachers at the time. I was supposed to attend Emerald Hill School of the deaf but could not afford it,” he recalled.

His childhood draws a cocktail of mixed emotions as he recalls how some people cared for him when he moved to Chitungwiza, but also remembers those who dehumanised him over a condition that he did not apply for.

“People often did not see me for who I was. Instead, they saw my condition first. It felt like they did not think I was a full person, just because I couldn't hear or speak,” he said.

“In Chitungwiza, I often felt alone, even in a crowd. People would talk around me, never trying to understand my world of silence. I had so much I wanted to share, so many thoughts and feelings, but no way to express them.”

Bertha chipped in, adding her experiences around some people who looked down upon her because of her condition.

“I felt powerless, unable to change their minds or show them who I am. I wish they understood that being deaf and mute does not mean I have nothing to say. It is a tough thing, feeling trapped inside yourself, longing to connect but finding barriers everywhere,” she said.

Fortunately, love finds and binds people in inexplicable ways.

As fate would have it, both Maxwell and Bertha moved to Rusape in 2017 and their paths met.

To Maxwell, meeting Bertha was a revelation.

He described how in Bertha's eyes, he saw kindness and a quiet strength that reverberated with his own. He was overwhelmed with a feeling of admiration and a sense of connection he had never felt before.

“I felt a surge of love, thinking maybe she is the one who will appreciate me, who will not judge me but will love me for all that I am,” he said.

Eventually, the two married and Bertha loves and respects her husband for being there for her and accepting her despite the sad chapter of sexual assault in her life.

The couple is now blessed with two children Keith (5) and Kimberly (1) who extraordinarily are capable of conversing with their parents through sign language.

Despite the undeniable presence of love between the couple, challenges keep stalking them because of their conditions. They both did not go beyond the seventh grade and hence are generally side-lined in the employment jungle.

People close to the family described Maxwell as a very hardworking man who does menial jobs in the neighbourhood for survival.

Chakandinakira explained how Maxwell once worked in Ngezi, crushing quarry stones to make a living; and how he is always on his feet, working when he goes to his rural home.

“He is a dedicated father and wants the best for his family,” said Chakandinakira.

“Unfortunately, what he gets from the menial jobs is not enough to cater for the family’s daily needs.”

Despite his hard work, some people take advantage of him and do not pay him.

“It hurts when I communicate well with people as they give me tasks, but then pretend to be having difficulties understanding me when I want my money. I put my all in the work I do but there are some hard-hearted people out there who take advantage of me,” he lamented.

“Keith is supposed to start early childhood development classes next year but I do not have the money for his education. I do not want to live on handouts but need opportunities that I can take to transform my life.”

An experienced poultry farmer, Maxwell requires assistance in helping start a poultry project that can help him fend for his family.

“Sometimes I volunteer to do jobs for people just so that I get a dollar or two but I am often chased away because people look at me and think I am incapable of working,” he said.

Chakandinakira has been the proverbial Good Samaritan, taking Keith under her care and providing the family with some basics but admits that she won't be able to do that for long due to other commitments.

Despite sleeping on life’s bed of thorns, Bertha and Maxwell’s bond has turned it into a bed of roses and it is undoubtedly proving that love is indeed “a single soul inhibiting two bodies”, as Aristotle aptly put it.

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