Mr Tshibalo Edson Nethenzheni (75), a venerable elder, says the outbreak of the coronavirus is the worst disaster in his entire life.

“I have seen many disasters, but this is the worst”


“I have experienced and survived very serious and dangerous disasters in the past 75 years of my life, but none of them shook the world like the outbreak of the coronavirus.” These are the words of the local highly respected elder, Mr Tshibalo Edson Nethenzheni (75) of Makonde village. He considers himself very lucky to have survived different disasters in which he lost friends and fellow community members.

“I was born when the disastrous Second World War was in progress, and that is why I was called Tshibalo. In Tshivenda, Tshibalo simply means when men are forcibly taken to participate in a war. I was there when smallpox (thomba) caused havoc in the late 1940s, but I survived. Many people died when there was a major outbreak of measles (tshifumbu) and chicken pox (maruda) in the 1950s, but I still survived. Urticaria (munyavhili) spread widely in the 1960s and I was still safe. There were heavy rains in 1977 where many people died after the Luvhola mountain fell, but the Lord still spared my life. In 1981, there was a very serious drought in South Africa where rivers dried up and animals died, but still I went through. I was also there when the first cases of HIV/AIDS were reported in South Africa in 1982. Heavy rains caused havoc in the year 2000, where some people died after their houses fell on them, but I was not affected,” said the old man, who prefers to be called by his Tshivenda name of Tshibalo.

Although his identity document says he was born in 1945, Nethenzheni claims there was a mistake from the Native Affairs clerks as he was born in 1941. He claims that his correct age is 79.

He said he had experienced a lot of unusual occurrences in his life, including the invasion of his village by edible stinkbugs (thongolifha) in 1960. “They were so many that we filled countless clay pots at the time. But they soon vanished and only a few remained at the mountainous village of Mudzidzidzi. Thousands of edible worms (phundulu) filled the whole village in 1963 and everyone feasted on them. They also vanished into thin air and up to now, it is very difficult to come across them in large numbers.”

The old man says the coronavirus is the worst disaster he has ever came across in his life. “We had outbreaks of serious diseases before, but health workers were able to vaccinate and successfully treated those who were affected. Let’s hope scientists will find a vaccine and cure for the coronavirus very soon, but I’m worried that a large number of people are dying on a daily basis.”

He recalls how easy things were during his time. “I passed my Junior Certificate (JC or form 3) in 1963 and became a principal at Tswera Primary School without attending any teachers’ training college. In 1967, I was transferred to Gogogo Primary School where I was also principal. In 1970, I became a principal again at Ha-Mukununde Primary School before I left teaching and went to Johannesburg where I worked as a dispatch clerk until I retired in 2010.”




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Date:13 December 2020 - By:



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