Midlands’ warmest heart:. . . First Lady-inspired philanthropist’s charity at home
Charity begins at home! It is one of those tenets in any work of goodwill, and Gweru-based businesswoman Smelly Dube has heeded the canon fully – only she has outgrown social charity and gone on to delve into the preservation of the nationalist history of the country.Yet her work in the Midlands province where she grew up – from paying school fees for the underprivileged children, to making sure that old people are snug and warm in the inclement Midlands cold – presents a catalogue of good and inspiring interventions.
And she has her own role model in the First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe who runs a state of the art children’s home in Mazowe – and she hopes to meet her one day.
Just recently, when Mrs Dube heard the chilling story of a Gokwe girl who had been raped and needed to undergo surgery to stop bleeding – which her family could not afford – her heart bled.
She had to do something.
“I was touched by the story and we immediately provided $854 for the uterus removal procedure at Gweru General Hospital,” she recounted to The Herald.
She went further.
“I took the mother of the unfortunate girl in at one of my houses at Ascot Infill for her safety and also that she may start working and earn a living for herself,” she said.
Mrs Dube, a property mogul and owner of River Valley Properties, has been extending such warm wings to many of society’s less fortunate, for which she has received accolades from the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce.
“I have built houses for the blind, pastors and I have been taking care of over 100 aged people’s needs. I have also been paying schools for 110 primary school children and five at university,” said the businesswoman who has interests in mining as well.
The university students, who are all female, fall under the C G Msipa Scholarship, of which she is one of the sponsors.
Her charity has endeared her to the community, but it has its challenges as she finds herself swamped by people in need.
“Everyday people flock to my house with problems but what strengthens me is that when you give, God always gives you something back,” said Mrs Dube.
She elaborates on her philosophy, which is couched in ubuntu and religion.
“I do not want to see anybody suffering. I also believe that it is a good thing to plough back into the community that I grew up in. I want to thank God that he has made me capable of helping people,” she said.
Mrs Dube believes she still has more to do.
“I want to continue paying school fees for underprivileged children but I want to build a safe home where we will also offer counseling services, as well as a clinic,” she said.
She talks of her inspiration by the First Lady.
“I was very touched when the First Lady Amai Mugabe adopted orphans from our own backyard in Gweru. I was so touched and felt compelled to do something,” she said.
Mrs Dube’s other inspiration is South African songbird Yvonne Chakachaka who has transformed from being an entertainer to a philanthropist.
As a successful woman, she has a couple of words for her womankind, as well.
“For women, I encourage them to have a heart for the underprivileged in society. We must set good examples so that young people can learn from us,” she says.
Mrs Dube, aged 46, is a mother of two and married to Mncedisi Dube.
She was born and raised in Mberengwa where she attended Masase Primary and Masase Mission for her secondary school.
Mrs Dube has ventured into the preservation of nationalist history of the country by building a house for President Mugabe, which she has dubbed Gushungo House, which is a replica of the iconic and historical Highfield house owned by the Head of State.
She intends the house to be a repository of knowledge about Africa’s fiercest nationalist and Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle in general.
The house is located in a suburb called Woodlands Park.
It is filled with pictures that tell the story of President Mugabe’s life, from his heyday as a schoolteacher to his transformation into a great nationalist and revolutionary up to this day.
The house was unveiled in July last year.
“The house was a way of paying tribute to the life and history of President Mugabe, in its depiction of his works before and after independence in 1980,” she explains.
“By the way, President Mugabe also lived here in Gweru at Mambo as a teacher, so this is a befitting tribute to him,” said she.
In 1954, Robert Mugabe, then a young man, taught at Mambo Primary School. The House of Gushungo stands about 2km from Mambo School.
Mrs Dube does not hide her admiration for the President from whose pro-poor policies have uplifted the lives of black people in Zimbabwe who were previously marginalized.
In 2007 she got Woodlands Farm under the land reform programme and turned it into a thriving new residential area for Gweru.
She also handed over 1 000 medium- and high-density residential stands to civil servants in the city.