It is one thing to exchange marriage vows and entirely another to keep them. This is why it is admirable to watching Ssalongo Bayitanempewo Zzinda a former council member of the Mamba clan and Nnalongo Margaret Zinda grow old together after 65 years in marriage.
The couple, residents of Mutundwe, Kirinyabigo in Wakiso District, say their lives could not have been better without each other.
Even more striking about these two is how they seem different in personality with Ssalongo an extrovert and humorous and Nnalongo the opposite.
Quiet, reserved and skilled by the years to keep her man on track, she is always reminding her husband to stick to the same conversation, each time he unexpectedly digresses.
Born April 2, 1925, Bayitanempewo attended Mackay Memorial Primary School but dropped out in Primary Four. “In 1943 while aged 19, I was taken for apprenticeship in print around present day Nasser Road. I worked there for a number of years, after which, my father opened a shop for me in Nateete. I started selling merchandise and was largely trading with Indians,” he narrates.
How they met
It is during this time that he came to meet Nnalongo’s father which led to the eventual meeting with the love of his life.
“For a while, I had carried out business with her father, one of the wealthy traders in Kampala by then, and we became close.
He liked me because I was a devoted, hardworking man, and did my work with integrity. It was him who recommended and suggested that I marry his daughter,” Ssalongo says.
Nnalongo, too, had not studied much and as soon as her parents noticed she was old enough for marriage, a suitor was sought, just as the Buganda tradition held by then. Nnalongo says: “At 19, my father suggested that I meet one of his friends whom he thought I would like. He told me he was a well-groomed man whom he had known for a while and was positive he would make a good suitor. He wasn’t wrong.”
Her parents then prepared a visit where the two met and agreed to walk down the aisle. On September, 15, 1951, they tied the knot at Namirembe Cathedral before friends and family.
Judging by the photos, it seemed to have been such a colourful wedding, with the bride beautiful and the groom youthful and evidently handsome.
“Four years later, in 1954, we had our first born girl. She was followed by the twins and nine more children, making a total of 12, nine boys and three girls, who are now old people. But sadly, we lost three of them, two boys and a girl,” Ssalongo says.
But age has not deterred the special memories the two hold, that even the smallest detail of how life after their marriage was is still fresh.
Nnalongo says: “The longer we stayed together, the more we grew close and in love, but still, the more we discovered things that we didn’t like about each other. But that is normal, because we are only human.”
Ssalongo says many challenges came their way, especially the loss of their children. He says it was an overwhelming experience they didn’t get used to every time it occurred but they had to stay strong for one another, and their children.
“Also, after our wedding, the shop was broken into and everything stolen. That therefore, meant going into another business to sustain my family.
I started dealing in second hand clothes up until when I couldn’t work anymore,” he adds.
When asked about how they have been able to make it this far, the couple attribute their successes to God.
“It is God who has seen us through for all these years. He has been the backbone of our marriage from the first day. We were both disciplined and nurtured from different homes so we watched the way we talked to each other. Forgiveness and hard work, but above all we loved each other,” Nnalongo says.
Currently, Ssalongo 91, spends most of his time at home writing.
He has so far authored Okukola ku Bugunjufu mu Lurimi Oluganda, a book about Buganda culture, language and clans which he is yet to publish.
Nnalongo, 82, is a stay home mother still nurturing her grandchildren.