The Sunday News
Robin Muchetu recently in Hwange
BIG Charlie is probably the country’s largest man. But being big has not been so much of an advantage to him. It has come with its share of problems leaving him with a dream of meeting the First Lady, Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa. He says if he meets her, maybe his plight of better living conditions will be heard.
Born Charles Nyoni, and now 54 years old, Big Charlie of Lwendulu in Hwange is almost reaching the 300kg mark in weight and towering just over 2,1 metres in height. He says his stature has been his biggest source of his trials and tribulations and yearns for better days as he reaches the twilight years of his life.
Big Charlie suffers from gigantic acromegaly which is a hormone disorder and typically, he has enlarged hands, feet, head, jaw, nose and forehead. Sunday News visited Big Charlie at his home in Hwange where they found him perched on the stoep where he spends most of his day sitting as he is not very mobile. He expressed his wish to meet the First Lady.
“I would like to meet Amai venyika, Amai Mnangagwa so that she gets to see and appreciate my plight, I cannot walk. My car is down too. If I try to use public transport the drivers do not allow me. They don’t want. I would be glad to meet her in person, Cde Victor Matemadanda visited me at one time and he said she would come and see me one day but I am still waiting for that visit,” he said.
Big Charlie believes that Amai Mnangagwa will shine light into his life and mobilise assistance for him as the going is getting tough for him.
And because of his body, he has a big appetite too and that is making putting food on the table a mammoth task since he is not working having left the employ of Hwange Colliery about eight years ago.
“I can hardly stand up, it’s a struggle for me to even walk as my body is in pain. I can bath alone though as I have a shower inside the house. I eat at least six eggs, a loaf of bread, a pint of milk and a big tea pot of tea for breakfast. Then I will feel that I have eaten properly. Sadza, I can really eat, a full chicken by the side is ok too. If it’s a goat, the insides are for one day, I finish them all then the rest I finish in three days,” he said.
He said he was lucky to have accommodation since he was retrenched in 2012 from Hwange Colliery Company where he worked as a builder and a refuse collector.
“I’m still staying here despite other people having been evicted. The company is still allowing me to stay. I hear they said if they were to send me away then I would struggle to use the public ablution facilities so they have helped me a lot and I’m still staying here,” he said.
He says as a young boy, his mother struggled to get him clothes as he continuously grew in stature. Big Charlie stopped schooling at Ordinary Level at Ndlovu Camp Secondary School as his widowed mother could no longer afford to pay for his tuition and examination fees so he never sat for the final examinations.
“I was born a very big baby actually and I even asked my mother, she told me that my father was exceptionally tall and from my mothers’ side, there were very big people so this has contributed to the way I turned out to be. My grandmother who gave birth to my mother was a giant who struggled to fit through a regular door,” he said.
Big Charlie said he moved to Hwange town after his O-levels and approached Hwange Colliery Company, narrated his challenges and he was offered a job. His father was one of the people who lost their lives in the Kamandama Mine disaster in 1972.
Asked if people were not scared of him growing up, he said he was the Goliath of the town and was often pelted with stones by young children as he passed by.
“Here in Hwange I also spent time at places like Sports Pavilion after work as I was a fan of Hwange Football Club, I became a bouncer too so I would just carry those that will be problematic out of the venue and throw them to the side. This is when they saw that I meant business.
Back then when I would walk in neighbourhoods, children would throw stones at me as they were amazed by my size. They had never seen anything like me in their lives,” he chuckled.
He expressed his gratitude to Hwange Colliery and the Methodist Church which assists him with food rations.
“I am diabetic and hypertensive and I need food. I have been getting help from Hwange Colliery here and there in terms of food. I wear shoe size 22 which is not locally available, there is no mold for such a size and I have been getting help from the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe who have been bringing them from America. There are evangelists who come every year and they bring shoes for me.
“When I approached a local shoe making company, they said they had a mold up to size 15 and could not go bigger owing to the market. They could not make a mold that big for one customer,” he said.
The last time he weighed Big Charlie was 288kg although he says it rises and fluctuates giving him more problems.
“My challenge is that the body is too heavy for me and while I was a refuse loader, I injured my back over the years. I used a small shovel while I was working so I can no longer stand up properly. The weight of my body has also affected my knees as they cannot support it. I also have diabetes sores under my feet and I need medication for that. I received a donation of hypertension and diabetes medicines from one organisation but if it runs out then I’m back to square one,” he lamented.
Big Charlie says he can no longer get into the Central Business District as his vehicle, a Toyota Bongo, has no wheels making it impossible for him to navigate the town he grew up in.
“The late Chief Hwanges’ son usually takes me in his car and we just drive around and do a few errands. If I get a set of wheels for this car then I can drive, be mobile again and see places and people,” he said.
Big Charlie’s love life remains a mystery with some saying he never married nor had children, while he was elusive about the subject and did not answer satisfactorily when asked about the existence of a family.