[Linda Ncube is founder & director of Humane Africa Trust. In partnership with Tikobane Trust, also in Zimbabwe, in 2021, they submitted a proposal and were awarded an AKI Africa-Based Animal Welfare Organization Grant, "The Five Freedoms in Action." The grant project promotes the five freedoms among pet owners in Lupane (HAT) and Hwange (Tikobane). I talked to Linda about how she became an animal welfare advocate in a country where there are still too few.]
I grew up in a small town bordering the Hwange National Park. My brothers and their friends used to trap birds and put them in a cage for rearing them and whilst they went to the bush to hunt for more birds they would leave me in charge of the caged birds to look after. Every day I would look at the birds and feel pity for them because their fate was that they either were going to be eaten or they would die in that cage. So I would release one or two birds from the cage and let them fly away, and then come up with stories of why the birds were missing. Now I realise that I had the passion for helping animals at the age of around 10.
At the age of 7 my father brought me a cat because in our culture dogs are for boys, whilst cats are for girls. This is a challenge to dogs that are in the homes of females only as they are not given enough care. There is a myth that if a girl child takes care of a dog, it will bring bad luck to her and she would have difficulties in getting married.
The cat was named Stopple and lived for about 5 years before he was knocked over by a car. I refused to eat anything that day as I spent the day crying for the cat. I then decided that I would never own any cat after that due to the pain that I felt, I decided I did not want to attach myself again to any animal because of the pain, Little did I know that I was going to love them more.
I now love cats, dogs and donkeys most and maybe this is due to the fact that they are the animals whose welfare is very silent as compared to animals whose meat and milk are consumed by humans in our country.
My love for dogs is also linked to my cultural roots. In Zimbabwe there is a sacred traditional way in which a child’s umbilical cord is disposed after it falls. So my clan, the Ncube Ndleko, when the umbilical cord falls from a child it is mixed with dog food (formed into a ball) and thrown to a dog. The dog has to catch it in the air before it hits the ground. This is the way of proving the paternity of the child in that if the dog fails to catch the food it means the child is not from that family. It is in this context that we, the Ncube-Ndleko clan, respect dogs as they are said to be carrying this other part of our lives, hence the love for dogs comes naturally.
The will to start my own helping organisation has always been in my mind but before joining Sibanye Animal Welfare & Conservancy Trust, I had a thought of starting an organisation which focused on helping women, children and minority groups. Being at Sibanye illuminated this compassion for the love of animals and with the help of Alfred Sihwa (Sibanye Trust) and Mark Hiley (National Parks Rescue), I founded Humane Africa in 2018 and registered it in September 2019.
The most heart-breaking things for me are seeing the animals in need and not being able to help them due to the financial crises in Zimbabwe. This is so much frustrating that I sometimes wish I did not have a heart for the animals. I would wish I am like some people who view animals as just things who do not feel the pain.
The most joyful experiences are seeing animals that were in pain or near to death having a new lease of life just like the below kittens that I rescued on a rainy day, infested with fleas. I named the kittens Kiratile (loved) and Lerato (love) and they have since grown up to be very loving and adorable cats. Having people now getting to know about the welfare of animals brings so much joy to my heart.
I have 7 kids, 3 human and 4 non-human kids. Human kids are Ashley, Leroy and Amazi. And the non-human kids are Kiratile and Lerato (cats) and Cooper and Fender (dogs). All my human kids have a great passion for animals.
[From Karen: We'll publish Part 2, more about about Linda Ncube and Humane Africa Trust, in the next few weeks.]