Farirai Machivenyika, Harare Bureau
Acting President General Dr Constantino Chiwenga (Retired) yesterday opened up on an illness that attacked him when Operation Restore Legacy was launched and affected his complexion.
Speaking at the burial of his sister Margaret Machekabuwe at Machekabuwe farm yesterday, Acting President Chiwenga said the illness caused the lightening of his skin prompting some sections of the media to speculate that he was applying skin lightening creams.
“Today we want to set the record straight on one issue now that journalists are here. When we did our operation to normalise things in the country, I was with General (Phillip Valerio) Sibanda and many others, they are brave men indeed.
“We also informed vaMatanga (then Deputy Commissioner General of police but now Commissioner General) about the plan,” Acting President Chiwenga said.
He said it was during that time that he fell ill.
“It was during that time that I fell ill. I had this skin disease (nhuta) that affected my whole body from beneath my feet to my back and the journalists started saying I was using skin lightening creams but that was not the case. I was sick,” he said.
Acting President Chiwenga said some samples were taken to South Africa but they could not provide medication for the disease.
“I have decided to talk about it because that is what you see but you should know that everything that happens comes with a price,” he said.
“We then sent everything to South Africa to find out what was causing the sickness but they failed to treat it.
“It was then that my (late) sister Margaret approached Sister Redemptor (Roman Catholic nun) and was given herbs that I began taking until I was healed.
But before I took the medication they also prayed for me.
“This is what had affected me and had also affected my wife,” said Acting President Chiwenga.
Mrs Machekabuwe, who died on Saturday after a short illness, received a State assisted funeral.
Acting President Chiwenga described her late sister, who was a war collaborator, as a fearless and principled woman. “We grew up the three of us at our homestead after a lot of things had happened,” he said.
“Our father had been poisoned and stayed in hospital for a long time and our homestead was burnt and we were left with very few belongings. It was a difficult time.
“We stayed, the three of us with our grandmother who drank beer a lot and would leave us alone most times with very little to eat. We would agree with my elder sister to steal money that was kept at home but she (Margaret) would admonish us from stealing the money that is how honest and principled she was.”
Acting President Chiwenga said while her sister might not have carried a gun during the armed struggle, she had contributed in her own way as a war collaborator.
He said they shared a strong relationship with her late sister.
“We were like Siamese twins although we would have our differences here and there we would always resolve them amicably and remained good friends.
“She stayed at the farm alone and would even drive her tractor on her own. She was hard working and was both the mother and father of her family following the death of her husband,” added Acting President Chiwenga.
Lieutenant General (Retired) Mike Nyambuya said he met the late Mrs Machekabuwe during the liberation struggle at Tangwena Sector in Manicaland.
“She was a very brave woman whom we relied on especially in the messenger role she played,” said Rtd Lt Gen Nyambuya.
“She is the one whom we used to send with our requests to the doctors and priests who were helping us during the war and she would make sure that she brings whatever packages given to her. She carried difficult assignments, no task was too big or too small for her.”
Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Huang Ping also consoled the Chiwenga and Machekabuwe families on their loss.