The Sunday Mail
She paints a ray of sunshine all over her face.
But the smile is brittle and beneath it is a layered story of a mother enduring a life of depression, abuse, despair and exploitation.
The worst has been three attempts on her life at gun point.
At age 39, Ms Sibongile Chieza pushes hard to bring the most the day has to offer.
Last week she graduated with a Diploma in Education after a three year training at Seke Teachers College.
But just after the ceremony, she swapped the graduation paraphernalia for ordinary clothing as she went back to the street in Harare Central Business District where she is hustler.
“I have no time to rest. My first born daughter is studying medicine at the University of Zimbabwe and her sister will be enrolling at Bindura University in August for a degree in Financial Intelligence. I am not employed and they look up to me, alone, for university fees,” says Sibo, as she prefers to be called; and seemingly in a hurry to end this interview.
What is clear about this soft spoken woman is that she tries to turn her painful life of misery into triumph.
To get the full story of Sibo, it is important to start from the beginning. In her young days, she believed her life would be a fairy tale; happy marriage, family and a career.
At age 21, Sibo tied the knot at a colourful wedding and two years later — 2001 — moved to South Africa with her husband.
It was a time many Zimbabweans left for other countries seeking employment as the economy back home went into a recession. After 10 years in South Africa, ‘life happened’.
Sibo and her husband separated leaving her with two young girls aged 11 and 10.
Her life had turned into a nightmare before crumbling.
She returned home with her daughters to adjust, fix herself and start all over again.
“I had to come back to Zimbabwe after multiple threats from my husband and his girlfriend.
“On three occasions, I suspect my husband hired thugs to fake break-ins and hold me at gunpoint as they ransacked the house.“It was all meant to ensure I move out and return to Zimbabwe, which is what eventually happened.”
Sibo says upon return to her parents home in Mufakose, she took all her marriage pictures and burnt them.
“Everyone at home was angry with my former husband. They all participated in the destruction on the wedding memories,” she says in a low tone full of emotions.
“I don’t have a single photograph of my wedding. Why would I keep the reminders?”
Sibo then tried luck in cross boarder trading, buying and selling an assortment of wares to keep her children in school.
After a moment of introspection, she realised she needed a qualification in a certain field to secure a formal employment.
She had good Ordinary Level passes, but had not proceeded for Advanced Level.
Sibo then tried to secure a place for either a nursing or teaching course. Her luck came in teaching and she enrolled at Seke Teachers College in 2017.
That year, she moved out of her parents’ house to rent a room in Kambuzuma. She says the move was driven by the need to face the harsh realities of life and push herself to work harder.Sibo still stays in the same neighbourhood and now rents two rooms.“When I started going to college it was tough because my children were also in school,” she says.
“However, there was some relief because my first born, Lutrish had attained good Ordinary Level passes and secured a STEM scholarship to proceed for Advanced Level.”
“But she was in a boarding school and it meant more financial demands. I was then introduced to street hustles by a friend.“My story on the street is for another day, it is long. But that is where I am going back to after this graduation. I pray for a job in the career I have chosen because I love to teach.”Sibo’s story mirrors what a lot of mothers, mostly single, have to go through to make it in life; sacrificing for their children. As the nation dedicates this day to mothers, Sibo is one of the many mothers who are being celebrated by their children for a positive impact they make in them.
“She is a foundation of love, a fountain of wisdom, our chief adviser; and we want to celebrate her love and sacrifice for us,” said Lutrish of her mother after the graduation ceremony.
Her sister Sasha adds with a smile; “I thank the Lord for such a mother. She does a lot for us and I want to say to her; happy Mother’s Day.”