…‘There is stigma, life is tough in Zim’
On Friday, a 39-year-old man married the love of his life at Harare Magistrates Court.
Many other couples wedded the same day but all the attention was on Phillip Marufu and his wife, Esnath Gwenzi, 38.
Their height deficiency, which saw Phillip grow to 1.36m and Esnath 1.26m, made them stand out and reminded many of Nigeria’s Nollywood stars popularly known as Tom and Jerry.
The Marufus say life as short people is not easy as the Zimbabwean society is discriminatory but they have since developed thick skin.
The two met via a WhatsApp group called “Little People” administered by Laura.
“We got to know of this group when Laura was interviewed on Star FM. That is when we got the number and joined. The group was so small as there are very few short people in Zimbabwe. That is where I met Phillip in 2017 and we became friends,” said Esnath.
Six months later, they started dating and their love life blossomed leading to their wedding on April 16 2021.
“I paid lobola for Esnath in May 2019. Before our wedding on Friday, we were living together. We did not have a honeymoon after our wedding, we came back home but we are happy we are legally married,” said Phillip.
Phillip is an established designer and tailor who grew famous when he made suits for Phillip Chiyangwa. He also designed and tailored his wedding suit.
“I made about five suits for Dr Chiyangwa in 2016. I have also done shirts and ghurka pants for Freeman and he used them on his video featuring Gemma last year.
“I get orders for suits mostly and per week I can do about three suits,” he said.
Esnath is into craft art.
“I used to work at Bindi Trust Arts run by a lady called Belinda Clowes in Eastlea. I was her manager for seven years before I left after getting married,” said Esnath.
After their customary wedding in 2019, the couple left for South Africa where they spent a year before coming back to Zimbabwe for their wedding.
“We came back to Harare because of the plans we have about life and business. Esnath bought machines in SA to do her craft work business. I hope to raise enough money to also get machines to venture into designing and production of leather shoes for both events and casual,” said Phillip, who comes from a family of six children.
“We are three boys and three girls in my family and I am the only short one. However, I think it is hereditary because my great, great grandfather was a short person.”
“In my family we are eight children and I’m the seventh born and the only one who is short. We are four boys and four girls and I’m the youngest of the girls. I am the first short person known in my family’s lineage,” said Esnath.
But would they mind giving birth to short people like them?
“Yes we would mind!” they said in unison.
“In fact. I have been praying about this all my life and I want to give birth to giants,” added Esnath.
“The amount of discrimination especially here in Zimbabwe is absurd. As you walk in public people sneer and make funny comments. You hear them saying ‘Kamukadzi here? Kagogo here? Kamwana kadiki here?’ (Is she a grown woman, granny or child?)
“In SA people are not like that. If they don’t know you they refer to you as aunty and are so respectful. People in Zimbabwe need to be educated about short people.
“We once got a house through an agent. We wanted to rent two rooms after we got married and the landlord said yes we have two rooms come and view. But when she saw us she changed her mind and said ‘hapana imba’.
“Then as we left, we overheard her talking to the agent saying ‘if you keep bringing these type of people I can’t work with you,” said Esnath.
Just how much does such stigmatization affect them?
“We do not care anymore,” they said in unison.
“We walk in public despite their negative comments. We hear them call us Tom and Jerry and we do not care. Difficulties in finding accommodation only encourage us to work harder and get our own space. Right now we are lucky we stay in the Avenues and there is no landlord,” added Phillip.
“However, our fellow short people are negatively affected by this stigma and we hope our story and the media helps to discourage stigma and discrimination against short people. Most of our short friends in Zimbabwe never get pictures taken or leave their houses and that is really bad,” he added.
The couple said most of their friends are tall and their witnesses at their wedding were Cline Magirazi and Precious Garimoto – Esnath’s best friend.
Esnath hopes to give birth to triplets.
“I want one or two kids,” said Phillip.