Leroy Dzenga Features Writer

“If looking after those children becomes too heavy, please kill them,” these were the last words Tsitsi Damba said she heard from her husband Rodney Magaya.

The statement was part of a conversation she said sealed a turbulent marriage of seven years.

On March 21, Magaya is said to have left without explanation, something he has repeatedly done over the years.

He used to come back after weeks with sob stories which would have left playwrights green with envy, but Damba has not heard from him since and believes this time he is gone for good.

Tsitsi Damba with her children — Pictures: Kudakwashe Hunda

Where to? She does not know.

“When he left, the only thing in the house in terms of food was a packet of salt,” Damba said.

Like a resourceful parent, she had over time learnt to manage.

All the other times her husband had left her to single handedly fend for her twins (a boy and a girl) and her seven-year-old son, she had somehow found a way to keep her young, but big family afloat.

Damba (31) lives with her twins and a seven-year-old son in a cramped backroom in Chitungwizas Unit L.

The room is far from ideal, but the family was on the brink of living on the streets when a well-wisher offered her the room to put up.

Like many who were in the informal sector before the Covid-19 pandemic, her vending business took a knock.

“I used to sell fizzy drinks at Market Square in Harare, but since the first lockdown I have not been able to work,” she said.

“I ended up spending all the money I had and I cannot restock now.”

This left Damba in a financial predicament which threatens her and her children’s wellbeing.

“Lockdown conditions have been relaxed and people have been returning to work, but I am eight months pregnant and these days I am not feeling well,” she said.

Damba can hardly get by and the pregnancy she is carrying is further complicating matters.

“I was evicted from our old place after failing to pay rent for four months and we have been struggling for food, I have had to watch my children go to bed without eating,” Damba narrated with tears streaming down her cheeks.

“I do not mind going to bed hungry, but seeing my children shivering because they are hungry is difficult.”

At eight months, she is worried about what is going to happen to her when she goes into labour under the prevailing circumstances.

“I have not yet registered to deliver,” said Damba. “Since conceiving I have not seen a doctor or had a medical check-up or any form of assessment.

“When I went to our local clinic they said I needed a letter from social welfare and I have not been able to obtain it.

“I had not planned for this pregnancy, my contraceptive failed me.

“Besides the three children she lives with, Damba has another set of twins who are in Grade 7 from her previous marriage who stay in Hurungwe.

“My pregnancy could produce twins again, all my pregnancies have delivered twins,” she said. “Even my seven-year-old son had a twin who died a month after birth.”

Should her anticipation prove to be true, this means she will have seven children to fend for and the earliest she can get back to being productive is when the newborns are at least three months old.

“I have been staying here for two months, the owners said at some point I need to pay rent, but I do not have the means,” said Damba.

Damba came to The Herald Lifestyle’s attention when senior Photographer Kudakwashe Hunda captured her image in Harare Central Business District with groceries on her head, with two children in tow while she is visibly pregnant.

“I was coming from Mount Pleasant where a lady called Aunty Sue has been assisting,” she said.

“She calls me monthly to give me groceries, I get mealie meal, flour and a few other basics.”

“The last time I went, I spent three days sleeping, I was in pain,” said Damba.

“I wish I had someone to send to collect on my behalf, but I do not have such a person.”

Damba was previously married, but her husband with whom they sired twins died in 2009 in a car crash.

She came to Harare from Karoi in 2011 and met Magaya whom she went on to marry. According to her, the marriage has been chaotic from the onset and besides the struggles, she feels its ending could bring her peace, which has been elusive.

Damba said seeking family help is out of question.

“Our family has problems, I have not heard from my younger brother in years,” she said.

“We are just two in our family.

Our mother died when we were young and our father says he doubts if I am his, so I cannot go to Hurungwe because of that.

Damba said her children were the only family she had and will do anything to avoid giving them up to social workers.

She is holding her breath that somehow, someone will come to her and her children`s rescue.

The good Samaritan who took her in, Ms Regina Mtombeni, said she would have helped materially if she had the means, but she is struggling too.

“I could not let this child go on the streets in her condition and the children, my conscience would not allow me not to chip in,” Ms Mtombeni.

Ms Mtombeni is worried about the unregistered pregnancy, which may be due anytime.

They are banking on hope, praying there is a silver lining in this heart wrenching tale.