Man who left home 61 years ago returns from SA

RETURNEE: Philip Moyo


A homecoming of sorts: Philip Moyo’s search for the path home after 61 years in South Africa

Philip Moyo, an 81-year-old man from Tsholotsho, left his home for South Africa in 1960 and never came back until recently. He says he cannot remember much about Zimbabwe except that Bulawayo used to have more white people than now.

Moyo left his home in Nemane Tsholotsho before Zimbabwe gained its independence, before Zanu-PF and Dynamos were formed. Highlanders is probably the only football club he might recognise if he is a football fan.

Saturday Chronicle met Moyo at Mpilo Central Hospital, where he is recovering from malnutrition. He says he can recall a few details of his life before he went to South Africa.

Moyo says he left the country without a passport as they were not required then and started a family with his wife who is from Botswana. He also had a child in the then Rhodesia but he cannot remember the name of his girlfriend or the child.

“I have a few contact numbers written on a piece of paper and an old picture of mine with my friends back then. I left home a long time ago without committing an offence as people are assuming but I had a child then. Unfortunately, I cannot remember the name of my girlfriend or the child but I know I had a child back in Rhodesia. After working for sometime as a domestic worker in South Africa, I started a family with a Tswana woman,” he said.

Moyo, a fluent isiZulu speaker, showed us his belongings: a black coat, two worn-out wallets with a few rand and pula coins, and a pair of sunglasses. The crumpled piece of paper had three numbers without clear codes to identify if they were Zimbabwean or Botswana cellphone numbers.

The old photograph that he kept referring to had four people that Moyo says are his former classmates and he said he suspects they have all died.

He says he left South Africa with the aim of visiting his surviving relatives in Mpopoma after his sister died. He left without his wife and four children, who are still in South Africa and Botswana.

“I was cooking, cleaning and doing other menial jobs in SA and I would get news about my family from people I met there. I just did not have their phone numbers but I am aware that many have died including my parents although I know I have a few relatives who can visit me so that at least I reunite with my family,” he said.

Moyo, who is suffering from malnutrition, said he had been ill for a while and could not reach his relatives as he did not have a mobile phone.

“I have been told that I am in Bulawayo but this place doesn’t look like it, it used to have lots of white people back in Rhodesia and I cannot remember what my home looks like. I never abandoned my family, it was just that I left when I was young and thought I would get established, which also failed.

“I need to meet my relatives, I do not have any sort of identification document but phone numbers of my relatives whom I was last in contact with. Nurses told me they picked me up from Mpopoma and I know that one of my nephews resides there who is alive and he was the one who was supposed to host me while attending my sister’s funeral wake,” he said.

Moyo added that his memory was not that sharp and he did not remember anything else about his family in Zimbabwe. He said he only remembers that his father was Sibambosobunyonyo and his mother was MaDawu and that his home was near Nemane Primary School in Tsholotsho in an area called Mandeya.

Sister Norma Mabhena, the public relations officer of Mpilo Central Hospital, said Moyo had improved compared to what he was three weeks ago.

She said Moyo spent a week at Mpilo’s casualty until doctors decided to admit him since he was unwell.

“Our team started inquiring about his documents and that’s how it emerged he was looking for his relatives. Fortunately, orthopaedics have discharged him as he also struggles with arthritis. We are waiting for physicians while we treat him for malnutrition.

“We are appealing to members of the public to come forward with information that will help us in locating Moyo’s family as he needs his family. The fact that he left South Africa heading home means he wanted to reunite with his family,” she said.

Sr Mabhena said anyone with information could contact the hospital at (0292) 214367.


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