Almost 57 years into their marriage, ooDali are more in love than ever and would not have it any other way

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This year, they will celebrate 57 years of marriage.
This year, they will celebrate 57 years of marriage.

Their marriage has been sweeter than most.

At first she was a clerk at a law firm, then she was a prison warder at East London’s West Bank Correctional Facility while he worked as a supervisor in the seaside town’s Nestle branch.

There was never a shortage of sweet, delectable nibbles in their home. Pumla Zitumane (72) giggles as she talks about how her husband’s job led to her losing her teeth.

“He would order different kinds of chocolate every week,” she tells Drum.

“There was always so much chocolate in the house that I ate it all the time. On some days I would even fall asleep with chocolate in my mouth and that slowly led to the decay of my teeth. By the time we reached our tenth wedding anniversary, I had to have all my teeth extracted and I have had false teeth since then.”

Mam Pumla met her would-be husband, Khumbulile Zitumane (now 80), in 1963 in Mthatha. She was still at school, and she was a track and field runner. She was from Gatyane and would travel to Mthatha for sports events. There she met a tall, dark and handsome young man who showed interest in her.

“Back then there were not phones,” Tat’Khumbulile says.

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“We would only meet at the games when all our different schools came together. I came from Gcuwa and I noticed this skinny girl, very light in complexion. I remember wondering if she was coloured or not.

“So I asked her ‘ungu mamni njengba umhlophe ingathi uli lawukazi (what is your clan name, since you are so light in complexion). I teased her about iingcongo zakhe (skinny legs) saying no wonder she could run so fast.”

He says back in the day that is how guys got girls’ attention, by teasing them then making them laugh.

“It makes the ground fertile for when you want to eventually ask her out.”

And that was the beginning of their courtship. They got married in 1966 and the outspoken new bride had a run in with her in-laws on the very first day.

Some of the memories they have captured over the years.
Some of the memories they have captured over the years.
Some of the memories they have captured over the years with their son Sibusiso as a teenager

“I was in the black doek and the entire makoti attire then while busy in the kitchen I needed something and so I called out to my husband and I said ‘Dali, ndicela uzondinceda (darling, please come help me)’ and I was promptly told that I could not call him Dali. But that I should call him by his sibling’s names and say bhuti ka Thobeka or bhuti ka Yoliswa out of respect.

“I told them I respect him, but I could never do what they asked because to me, he is Dali and nothing else. I would rather go back home or make hand signals to get his attention for him to come to me. But I was not prepared to stop calling him Dali.”

And course, he stepped in and told his family that they call each other Dali and that it was not up for debate.

But as sweet as things were in their relationship, they still felt like something was missing. A child.

They longed for a child, yet after years of trying, they could not conceive.

But on the tenth year of marriage, they were blessed with a son whom they named Sibusiso - which means blessing.

"He was our biggest blessing. We had gone to fertility specialists and we had also prayed for him," she says.

Tat'Khumbulile says having a son meant the world to him.

"It meant that our family name would live on, even long after I have passed."

They never really tried to have another child because they believed that if it was God's will to have another child they would, without having to go to specialists.

He had a t-shirt that said 'a touch is a move', Tat'Khumbulile recalls.

"I was not a person to mess with. Everyone knew that. By this time we lived in Duncan Village. I wore two watches, one on the left and the other on the right. In the chains of those watches I kept knives. I was not joking when I said a touch is a move.

"If anyone crossed me, they knew what fate awaited them. Then later I got rid of the knives and started carrying a 9mm gun every where I went. It took Jesus to save me."

He says his wife used to go to church and he was bothered by how late she would often come home.

Some of the memories they have captured over the years.
Some of the memories they have captured over the years.
Some of the memories they have captured over the years.

"So one Saturday in 1975 while she was attending a service I decided to go check the church out. To see what the fuss was about. I stood in a corner and watched the pastor preach while standing on a step ladder so everyone could see him. 

"He preached a word saying 'for how long are you going to go down your crooked path'. It was a Saturday evening and on the Sunday I told Dali to prepare clothes for me because I wanted to go to church with her. She could not believe it and asked what I wanted to do at church.

"Two Sundays later I gave my life to Jesus and I gave the pastor my gun. After the service, he took me to Eastern Beach where he prayed until he cried, then he threw my gun into the ocean. I have been a changed man since then."

Over the years he held several church positions from secretary and treasurer, right up to superintendent. 

"I promised God I would serve him until my dying day."

Describing their marriage journey over the years, Mam Pumla says it's not about material things.

"It's not about cars or money or anything like that. It's about the promise you make on your wedding day, giving your heart to the other and being respectful and kind, even in disagreements. "It's not always a bed of roses, but because you promise each other forever, then you work through whatever challenges you find yourselves in.

"The problem with this generation is that you young people give up too quickly. But another problem your generation is faced with is that when a man is tired of a woman and no longer wants her, it's so easy to just kill her. So I can understand why young women decide to leave at the first sign of trouble, because they're not sure where it will lead to. So they'd rather leave while they can. Women nowadays need to strike a balance."

In the mid 90s Tat'Khumbulile became sick. Diabetes caused him to take early retirement because he could not see properly. The diabetes was affecting his eyesight.

This meant Mam Pumla had to be the breadwinner, but she says they did not allow that to change how they saw each other.

"The only changes were things like the bond which had to be in my name. But our true essence never changed. He always remained the head of our family."

After 54 years of marriage the unthinkable happened. Their one and only son, Sibusiso died, aged 44. He had a brain aneurysm.

"It was the most painful time of our lives. He was our everything. I questioned God a lot but I quickly had to come to my senses and remember that God didn't ask us before gave him to us, so he didn't have to ask us before taking him. He died in my arms.

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"Then Dali was unwell. He became very sick, it looked like he was going to die too. The day after our son's funeral, we were at a hospital because it seemed Dali was also on his way. I prayed and I released him, because I didn't want him to suffer and be in pain. So if God wanted to take him, then he should take him and spare him the pain."

He thankfully recovered, but because of old age, his health is on and off.

They both agree that in order to make a marriage last for over half a century, that it's important to know and understand each other.

"Be patient with each other. Marriage has no conditions, so love each other unconditionally. There should be no third party, but God. Never escalate things unnecessarily. Even if you think you're right in a disagreement, if your spouse is going to be more upset, rather tone it down so it doesn’t get worse. Train yourself, consciously, to be kind to one another," he says.

She says women should not lose themselves in marriage.

"You don't stop being who you are. Of course, if there are areas that need to change in order for the relationship to last then do that, but don't stop liking the things you like and try to conform to any characteristics society deems necessary for a wife. Just be you."

They have four beautiful grandchildren.

"No man is as handsome as my husband, I wouldn't change him for anything in the world. Even if you see him walking, even his shoes agree that ungu Gasela nozwane."

Given a chance to have do over in his life, Tat'Khumbulile would choose his bride again.

"I'd choose her, without a doubt. I'd chose her over and over again. I was truly lucky to meet Dali."

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