THE TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS OF CHARLES & JESESI MUNGOSHI | It was in 2016 during the month of love, February, that the woman famous for portraying Neria, Jesesi Mungoshi, finally thought that her long suffering husband was about to die.
Since the famed Zimbabwean author Charles Mungoshi fell into a coma in 2010, a flame of hope had been burning inside Jesesi’s heart, a flame ignited by the belief that love would carry them though this rough period in their 42-year-old marriage. However, in February last year, death’s cold breath came close to extinguishing that beautiful and bright flame.
“That was the only time that I felt like he was about to die. He just went down and I didn’t know what to do. It was only later when I got advice from medical professionals that I found out that he’s supposed to always take blood pressure tablets,” said Jesesi in an interview with Sunday Life this week.
Mungoshi’s brush with death was a little too close for comfort for Jesesi, who has been at her husband’s side for seven long and hard years, a period which culminated in a life saving operation in April this year.
It is perhaps a cruel twist of irony that Jesesi now has to confront the realities of death while her husband is still alive, years after she made her name as an actress portraying a woman plagued by the saddening shadow cast by her husband’s demise.
Neria was a career and life defining role for Jesesi, as she put up a five-star performance in what is arguably the most memorable Zimbabwean movie of all time. From old big screen lovers to the current 3D generation, it is hard to find a Zimbabwean that does not remember the movie.
The movie brought to life a struggle that many Zimbabwean women have to contend with, as they try to fend off the vultures that descend on them during a time when they are picking up the pieces of their shattered lives.
Although the movie had an all-star cast, which included music superstar Oliver Mtukudzi in a rare movie appearance, Jesesi was the film’s most vital cog, carrying out the gruesome task of bringing the harsh and unfair realities of life for Zimbabwean women with aplomb.
Decades after that much lauded appearance in front of the camera, Jesesi has found that life is also not a bed of roses. Although she has stood steadfastly beside her husband since April, as she did back before the operation, she acknowledges that things have not been easy for her during his rehabilitative phase.
“He started getting better after the operation and the doctors recommended extensive physiotherapy. However, the therapy is expensive so sometimes he doesn’t go. The number of sessions he attends depends on my payments and that’s where we’ve run into difficulties. So sometimes he doesn’t go and that slows down his recovery and he ends up relapsing,” said Jesesi.Despite the difficulties that come with taking care of her ailing husband, Jesesi insists that his ill health has strengthened rather than weakened their over four decades old love.
“His illness has moved us closer. We’re much closer now than we were when we were both healthy. I don’t feel good when he’s out of my sight for even a few minutes. Whenever he goes to hospital I feel really bad because deep down I’ll be thinking that they can’t take care of him like I can,” said Jesesi.
In the movie Neria, Jesesi found herself leaning on her brother, Jethro, who provided a shoulder to cry on when the unwanted attention of her in-laws brought countless tears. The support provided by her brother, who composed a heartbreaking yet beautiful song to soothe her tormented soul, allowed her find hope and see a bit of light at the end of a long and dark tunnel.
As Jesesi confronts real life demons, she has found that the hope she exhibited on screen is something that she also possesses in real life. Last week the couple was in Bulawayo, where they expect to be for the next month. The two are in the City of Kings at the invitation of the National Social Security Authority (NSSA), who put the famed writer at their rehabilitation centre. This development has given Jesesi renewed hope that her husband will spring into full life sometime in the near future.
“When he got seriously ill last February few people thought he was going to recover. Everyone thought he was going to die. If you look at him now however, you will see how much he has improved. He can talk and his movements have improved and it’s really wonderful.
“Since I’ve got to NSSA I have been hearing great testimonies from people who have been through the rehabilitation programme. I didn’t even know the centre existed before they got in touch with me a few months ago. Now I’m very optimistic that he will be himself again in the not too distant future,” she said.
The actress revealed that Mungoshi’s latest work, 2013’s Branching Streams in the Dark, had brought a much needed flow of revenue to the Mungoshi coffers. This, she said, was crucial because the family did not want to rely on handouts from Zimbabweans who had shown overwhelming support for Mungoshi in his hour of need.
“One thing that you’ve got to realise is that he has worked hard throughout his life. If people want to support him, they should buy the book. That’s where they have to direct their goodwill. He worked hard and it is only right that he benefits from that hard work while he is still alive,” she said.