Cyclone gogo: publicity stunt gone wrong?

The Sunday Mail

March 14: Cyclone Idai hits Chipinge and Chimanimani

A week later, two old ladies made donations: one at Star FM, the other in Highlands

One gogo became an internet sensation

Econet’s Strive Masiyiwa donates house and $1 000 per month for life

Six months later, no-one has benefited from the donation

Was Masiyiwa’s donation a publicity stunt?

Emmanuel Kafe

In the aftermath of Cyclone Idai, which devastated Chipinge and Chimanimani from the night of March 14, the humanitarian response to the plight of the victims was as overwhelming as much as it was heart-warming.

As the nation responded to the growing humanitarian crisis with swiftness and love that united everyone, two elderly women captured the imagination of the country, with one making the short trip from Mbare to Star FM studios to donate a sack-full of assorted clothes. She was correctly identified as Gogo Magombo.

Gogo Magombo speaks to The Sunday Mail recently: “Econet should just come clean on the house offer.”

The other one is said to have walked the almost 20-kilometre journey from Highfield to Highlands’ Presbyterian Church, where she also donated a sack-full of plates and pots. She never left any details.

As social media warmed up to the efforts of the two old women, Econet owner, Strive Masiyiwa, made an audacious offer: he was to build a house for the Highlands gogo in a town of her choice, which was to be solar-powered and with running water as well as pay her a thousand-dollar-per-month stipend.

In a case of probably mixed up identities, Gogo Magombo, the Mbare old woman, became the instant internet sensation, and the Press looked for her and profiled her selfless act.

No-one seemed to pay any attention to the Highfield-to-Highlands gogo, who quietly disappeared into thin air.

Now almost half-a-year after Cyclone Idai, the Highlands gogo is nowhere to be found, and it seems as well that the house that she was promised has not yet been built.

Then writing on their Facebook page, the Highlands Presbyterian Church noted: “This gogo had no 50c for combi, walked the whole way from Mbare to Highlands just to donate her pots to give to people in Chimanimani.”

And at about the same time this gogo was making her donations in Highlands, Gogo Magombo, with striking similarities, was also donating clothes through Star FM Studios.

Did Gogo Magombo steal the social media limelight and ride on the generosity of the latter in what can best be described as a classic case of mistaken identity?

But Masiyiwa’s offer, at least according to his Facebook post on March 20, is to the Highlands gogo, leaving Gogo Magombo, to rue the moment she made the short trip across Mbare to Star FM studios.

Reflection: A disastrous cyclone hit Madagascar, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi__What might you be able to do to…

Posted by Strive Masiyiwa on Wednesday, 20 March 2019

In fact, the house offer, as well as the thousand-dollar-per-month stipend promised by Masiyiwa has left Gogo Magombo in a fix: almost every one of her neighbours now think she is lying that she has not yet been rewarded.

This publication ran a story of the elderly woman who had shown her kind-heartedness by donating the little she had to the affected families in Chimanimani – but the story never mentioned that she was promised a house and money by Masiyiwa.

From the story, people mistook the 70-year-old Plaxedes Dilon, also known as Gogo Magombo from Block C, Mbare Flats for the unnamed gogo who donated in Highlands and almost every other media ran the story referring to Gogo Magombo as the one who had been promised heaven-on-earth by Masiyiwa.

While both gogos, the one profiled by The Sunday Mail and the one on the Presbyterian Church Facebook page, are clearly indicated to have walked from Mbare, the gogo in Masiyiwa’s post is said to have walked from Fiyo (street parlance for Highfield).

This unidentified old woman disappeared into thin air soon after making her donations at Highlands Presbyterian Church. She is the one who won Strive Masiyiwa’s sympathy

Said Masiyiwa in his Facebook post: “Gogo walked all the way from her home in Fiyo because she didn’t have money for a combi but she packed her saga (sack) on her head and walked to Highlands to donate the saga full of pots . . .”

Could Masiyiwa have missed the glaring detail of where the Highlands gogo came from?

But six months later, Gogo Magombo is very adamant that she was the one and is yet to receive “her promised house and money”.

Recently, she recounted her story.

“I had just come from a funeral and three relatives called congratulating me that I had been given a house and money by Strive Masiyiwa, and more people came asking if what was on social media and television was true or false,” she narrated.

She added that after the news broke out, she appeared on television – which made her believe that she was, indeed, the one.

“After I appeared on Ezomgido, I was not quick to go to Econet but rather I went to my rural home, I took it they will call or come looking for me,” she added.

A month down the line, no-one came or looked for her and she decided to go to an Econet shop in central Harare where she was referred to Econet’s headquarters in Msasa.

“When I got to Msasa, the receptionist said the person who was handling the issue was Simbarashe Muswehaurare, he was called and we talked on phone.

Gogo Magombo speaks to The Sunday Mail in March, after her story on Star FM caught the nation’s imagination

“He asked me to leave my number and contact details because he said he was not in the office. Only later, he was to tell the receptionist to inform me that the house had already been given to someone who was not Plaxedes Dilon,” she added.

But she was asked to come back the following week on a Tuesday but she went there on a Wednesday, where Muswehaurare apologised that his bosses were out of the country.

“I left my number again with him but no-one called and I had to go there for the third time – and this time with my nephew and the messages from social media and newspapers in my phone but we could not talk to Muswehaurare. In fact, he never picked his phone.

“I went back home after the receptionist had told me they will call,” she recounted.

After fruitless attempts to get in touch with Muswehaurare, Gogo Magombo is no longer bothering the man – “as I have left everything to God”.

Gogo Magombo said she is not demanding anything but feels her life is no longer the same and is no longer safe.

Good deeds should be done for intention, not attention, this popular social media meme implores

“You will never know the vulnerability that comes with this situation I am in, people think I have started receiving money from Masiyiwa when, in actual fact, I don’t have anything,” she said.

She believes Econet should just go on television or radio and let people know that she was not the one and that they already gave the house and money to somebody.

“If they had mistaken me for someone, let the world know, I am now living in fear all my neighbours think I have money I am receiving from Masiyiwa – you know people in Mbare can do anything – they can pounce on me thinking I have money,” she said.

Dzingira Growth Point, also known as Copa – one of the hardest hit communities during Cyclone Idai. Donations received throughout the country went to help communities in these cyclone-ravaged areas

Apart from the fear of being held up by robbers, friends and relatives are now constantly mocking the elderly woman.

Attempts to contact Econet to ascertain if the house was handed over to the unnamed elderly woman or not were futile as officials kept referring this reporter from one person to another.

Mr Lovemore Nyatsine, the communications and public relations executive, said he was no longer dealing with the media and referred us to contact Muswehaurare who, after two weeks of trying to call him, never picked his phone.

Even visits to the Econet Msasa headquarters yielded nothing.