Saluting the deceased …the life of a gravedigger

For more than 40 years, gravedigger Nyerere Romance Nyabvumba has been preparing the graves for the deceased of Karoi. The 64-year-old is well known for his comical salutethat he gives to those being lowered into their graves,causing mourners to temporarily forget their bereavement.

Gravedigger Nyere Romance Nyabvumba at the cemetery in Karoi.
Gravedigger Nyere Romance Nyabvumba at the cemetery in Karoi.

“Saluting the deceased is a way of respecting them. To me, these people are heroes who deserve our utmost respect,’’ said Nyabvumba. This year Nyabvumba celebrates his 44th year working for the council. He joined the workforce in June 1968 as a florist before turning his hand to digging graves.

He worked with the lateMairosi Makazhu and Marikado Shato whose duties included arranging flowers within the cemetery.

Nyabvumba also recalls the historic burial of one Selina Kamuzangaza, a prominent local man who was the first black person to beburied in the cemetery in 1988.

“Selina Kamuzangaza was the first black person to be buried herein 1988 and, later, more blacks were accommodated, forcing the whites tomove away to Tengwe Cemetery, 50 kilometers out of Karoi. There were fewer deaths then, but now hardly a day passes without someone being buried here,’’ he said. There are more than 3000 people buried in the cemetery. Nyabvumba said that he had not been paid for three months.

‘’We do not get paid for working on weekends, but we still report for work because death occurs all the time. I work on weekends as a way of giving to my community,’’ he said.

Nyabvumba said he would quit “some time in the future’’, hoping that when he passes on, the dead will rise and salute him too.

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