Chitungwiza’s Mother Theresa feeds thousands
©️ AS a young girl, Samantha Murozoki used to get into trouble for taking groceries from her home without her parents’ permission and giving them away to people she thought were struggling.
That same girl has grown to become a heroine who is saving thousands from the jaws of hunger in Chitungwiza.
The mother of two was born and bred in Bulawayo before moving to Harare’s Mt Pleasant and later to Chitungwiza’s Unit A at the onset of the coronavirus lockdown to spend time with her sisters and mother.
“When lockdown was announced I was more worried about myself and my little sisters’ upkeep. I had no intention of taking care of people’s food needs, let alone on a daily basis. The plan was to rest and wait for the lockdown to end. But as fate would dictate, everything changed,” Samantha told the Daily News on Sunday.
“During my short stay here (in Chitungwiza), I have learnt that a number of people are going to bed on empty stomachs. As a result, I used the US$80 I had to buy a few groceries to feed a few.
“It worked for first few days and then I went on to sell my three pairs of shoes (sneakers) and the cash enabled me to continue for some days.”
Now, long winding queues have become a common sight at around 7am and also at 3pm in Seke Unit A where Samantha prepares food for distribution among hungry children and families.
“I remember the first day I cooked a 2kg pack of rice and fed 18 people, but the the next day they increased to 47 then 86 and today there are almost 2 000+ people,”said Samantha, a lawyer who specialises in immigration issues.
“Every morning children come to get porridge, and then in the evening the number doubles as they also come along with their parents. I use 60 kilogrammes of maize meal daily.”
With the full support of her husband, parents and neighbours, Samantha has touched the hearts of many, which saw a variety of well-wishers and corporates chipping in to help feed the poor.
“I have been assisted by several companies and individuals who are operating from a backdrop of humanitarian work. This has made my work and mission more attainable,” she said.
“I received a donation of maize meal, salt and beans from National Foods which can last some days. I also received assistance from Honourable Killer Zivhu who pledged to contribute $5 000 weekly until the end of the lockdown.”
Owing to alarming poverty levels in this community, hordes of people frequent her place for food daily.
“There are a number of volunteers I am working with now and we invite the beneficiaries to come in groups or batches as we are striving to manage the crowds as we promote social distancing to curb the spread of coronavirus,” Samantha said.
“The programme will run throughout the lockdown and chances are we could extend the programme by a month after the national lockdown.”
Samantha also gives small relief packs to deserving families, including a cup of washing powder, sanitary pads and lotion.
“People around the community have been very supportive, but there are a few who make fun of the situation and would even gossip to the extent of secretly taking pictures of my mother’s house (interior) laughing at its appearance,” she said.
“Despite the negativity from the few individuals, the support I am getting has been overwhelming.
“My neighbours have been steadfast in their patience. They have welcomed an influx of thousands into their area and I will forever be indebted to them.
“The outside community has been generous with donations and volunteering. They have contributed immensely in moulding the Kuchengetana Relief Kitchen.”
One Blessing Mabuzani, aged 45, volunteered to assist Samantha in cooking and cleaning after she benefitted for a couple of days.
“I came here two weeks ago looking for food. She was the only one cooking for us and I decided to help her prepare the meals and I do not expect to be paid for my services.
“I have three children and my husband is not employed. Thanks to her, I can now be able to bring food to my family every day,” Mabuzani, who stays 4km from Samantha’s homestead, said.
Some even walk as far as eight kilometres to the Murozoki family house in search of food.
Her neighbours appreciate her efforts.
“She is our own version of Mother Theresa. People are hungry and we really appreciate what she is doing,” Charmaine Majoni, a neighbour said.
A recent Global Report on Food Crisis shows that the severe food insecurity situation in the country is expected to worsen this year due to the poor rainfall received in the agricultural season.
“The 2020 harvest is forecast to remain below the five-year average, which would sustain a tight supply situation and curtail potential earnings from crop sales for farming households.
“As a result, the acutely food-insecure rural population in need of urgent action is estimated at 4,3 million up to June 2020 (IPC, March 2020),” the report read.
However, in a twist of events, Chitungwiza Municipality on Wednesday ordered Murozoki to close the kitchen, citing health hazards and contravention of the town’s by-laws.
Acting town clerk Tonderai Kasu said her kitchen was not registered with the council in accordance with Chitungwiza Urban Council by-laws and she did not have a municipal licence for the work she was conducting.
Kasu said the order for Murozoki to cease operations was made on the basis of genuine and legitimate concerns with respect to public health and safety.
In a letter to Murozoki, Environmental Health officer Tongai Mukomondera said the kitchen was not approved by his department in terms of Chitungwiza Urban Council by-laws.
“You are, therefore, advised to cease operations with immediate effect and take the necessary procedures to meet minimum requirements for a feeding kitchen,” he said.
The council’s order was met with outrage from beneficiaries of the kitchen, philanthropists who were crowd funding to sponsor the initiative and a host of sympathisers.
However, in a happy ending to the matter, the two parties reached a compromise on Friday with the Chitungwiza Municipality offering Murozoki a place to operate from.
“The meeting we convened today (Friday) at our council head office yielded positive developments. Murozoki was forthcoming on the issue of registering her operations,” Kasu said.
“She made a plea that council allows her to operate while the paperwork is being processed.
“Council has offered one of its properties, a crèche in Unit A, as a temporary site for her to conduct her charitable work.
“Volunteers who are assisting with food preparation will be screened for Covid-19, and will undergo food-handlers medical examinations,” said Kasu, who also added that Murozoki has to meet all necessary regulatory requirements by the government and would get assistance and guidance from the district administrator while council will assist with security and order at the new premises.
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