‘Big Charlie’ falls on hard times

22 Nov, 2015 - 00:11 0 Views
‘Big Charlie’ falls on hard times Charles Nyoni

The Sunday News


Charles Nyoni

Charles Nyoni

Dumisani Nsingo , Sunday Leisure Reporter
“MY friend you should feel what it’s like to truly starve, and you’ll forever think twice before wasting food. To me crumbs are just as important as a decent meal nowadays.”

These were the heart-rending words, which Zimbabwe’s colossal man, Charles Nyoni, popularly known as “Big Charlie” mumbled when greeted by this Sunday Leisure reporter at his residence in the sprawling Lwendulu compound at the coal-mining town of Hwange.

Big Charlie surely knows that his herculean stature won’t stand a chance or scare away his unforeseen enemy, HUNGER. Of course he is already calling for back-up, an SOS to repel his nemesis.

Weighing 280 kilogrammes and standing at 2,10 metres tall, he is only 41 centimetres shy of the Guinness World Record for tallest living male, Sultan Kosen from Turkey who stands at 2,51 metres.

“Hunger is getting the better of me ever since I was retrenched from work. I hardly have a decent meal and to make matters worse I’m now diabetic and I need a special diet. A five-kilogramme bag of mealie-meal only lasts me three days,” he said.

True to his assertion, a glance into Big Charlie’s rather property-less kitchen, this reporter only saw a half cut cabbage, which probably had been part of his daily meal for about a week, a plate of boiled maize kernels and an almost empty bag of mealie-meal, which was tucked under a mini-wooden table stand for his two-plate stove — his most valuable kitchen asset.

An antique table and a chair make up the valuables in this room.

“I now owe my living to the benevolence of my neighbours like Weekly (Mwale). I did not invest during my time while I was employed because I had to pay for my siblings’ school fees, as well as fend for them thus I couldn’t afford to buy any property due to my low salary,” said Big Charlie.

Big Charlie was born in 1966 at Bingwa Farm, Hwange in a family of eight, being the first born of the late Robison Samurobu Nyoni and Estel Ndlovu.

“I understand I was so huge that my mother couldn’t afford to carry me on her back like what other mothers do to their children at the time when they are toddlers,” said Big Charlie.

His father was part of the miners who died in one of the world’s biggest mine disasters, the then Wankie Colliery Company (now Hwange Colliery Company)’s Kamandama Mine disaster of 6 June 1972.

In 1984, Big Charlie was hospitalised to undergo a surgery in gigantism and acromegaly to determine what led to his rare growth.

Big Charlie was to be employed by Hwange Colliery Company in 1989, starting off as an assistant builder for two years thereafter as a garbage collector, up until the time he was retrenched in 2012.

Upon his retrenchment, the big man bought a Madza Bongo lorry with a carrying capacity of 850kg, which he meant to hire out or ferry people and property to areas on the periphery of the coal-mining town.

“I bought this lorry with the pension I got from the Mining Industry Pension Fund and my initial idea was to use it to transport people to neighbouring villages and get a few bucks from it but the number of vehicles plying the rural routes has tremendously increased and it’s no longer a viable business at all,” said Big Charlie. However, because of his huge frame he cannot fit in the front seat of the truck, which is being driven by a friend.

Despite his enormous stature, Big Charlie also wishes to get married one day.

“Just like any normal boy I used to have a girlfriend during my teen years and just after my initiation into adulthood, I think ladies were sort of scared of my giant body. I wish to get married one day, though I know no woman would want to live with me when I am penniless like this. How will I fend for her? But I leave that to God, He has plans for me,” he said.

Big Charlie said the coal mining company managed to organise an EcoCash outlet for him and even allowed him to stay at the company house until he deemed necessary to vacate.

“The company is, however, still to pay me my retrenchment package over three years down the line. I’m therefore appealing to well-wishers to assist me by buying me a residential stand at Mpumalanga high-density suburb so that I can build my own house or to be kind enough and buy me a bigger lorry at least a seven-tonner, which I will hire out to ferry sand for those that might be involved in construction and get some money to build my own house,” Big Charlie said.

During his working days, Big Charlie used a long shovel specially designed for him to effectively carry out his chores.

Failure to get a shoe which fits him, has been his biggest problem since his teenage years. All local shoe manufacturers have over the years failed to manufacture size 20 shoes that fit the giant, prompting him to get specialised shoes specifically crafted for him from South Africa.

Big Charlie's shoes

Big Charlie’s shoes

“Through the assistance from the Colliery I would occasionally get my shoes made from South Africa, as there was no local shoe manufacturer who could mould them for me. Over the last few years there are two members of the Methodist Church from America who have been bringing me shoes and clothes,” Big Charlie said.

In January this year, Big Charlie met George Wessels in Johannesburg, South Africa. Wessels is a German shoe-maker who is famed for manufacturing big shoes for the world’s tallest men and women who are recorded in the Guinness Book.

A German, Melanie Assauer is one of the people who made this day possible, along with one of Nyoni’s friends, as they had contacted Wessels many years ago.

Wessels has made shoes for Big Charlie before, but has never actually met or handed over to him in person and in their first meeting, the German gave him his fifth shoe.

“I was very delighted to meet Wessels in Joburg. He gave me a pair of shoes and various clothes and promised to visit the country where upon he will seek an audience with the President to give me more gifts as he reckons that I am one of the few big men in the world,” Big Charlie said.

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