Meet Zim’s oldest gardener

By Lisa Masuku

Having left his home country Malawi in 1962 in search of greener pastures, the job that Caroe Phiri only managed find in Zimbabwe was that of gardening.

59 years later, Phiri celebrated his 101st birthday and surprisingly to many, he is still going strong and yet to quit his lifelong career.

Most people tend to retire at the age of 65, and with challenging jobs like gardening that require physical strength, retirement tends to be early.

“I choose this career because I am not educated. It is the only way I know how to make money and fend for myself. Through gardening I can feed myself and pay my burial dues. However, with my age now maintaining a garden is not easy because I am no longer strong enough, but I have to keep going,” Phiri says.

Besides the motivation to fend for himself, the 101-year-old gardener, who separated with his wife 20 years ago, says gardening has played a central role in helping him stay active and healthy.

“You know with this my age if I just sit and do nothing my body will also deteriorate so I have to stay strong by being active.”

Even though his former employer who relocated to South Africa two years ago availed a room for the centenarian, life has not been easy for Phiri.

He lives on doing small gardening jobs for a number of residents around Ilanda suburb and has become a huge part of the community which admires him for his dedication towards his work.

“Everyone knows and respects grandpa Phiri for his hard work. He usually does gardening for most people here and they pay him, and like you heard from him that’s how he gets money to survive,” said a neighbour.

Another added, “In some instances residents come together and buy him some groceries because he is like family to this community.”

However, in as much as the 101 year-old gardener has built a strong bond with the Ilanda community in his lifelong career, his greatest dream is to die in his homeland and be laid to rest next to his forefathers.