Alick Macheso's mother, Emilia, says she is shocked by accusations that her son used his manhood to treat his son's nhova.

She said she did not treat Macheso's fontanelle that way. She said Tafadzwa's claims shocked her and were outrageous as far as she was concerned.

"I used traditional herbs to treat Macheso's sunken fontanelle and those of my other four children. We did not do such absurd things she is claiming. And now I even go to the clinic if a baby has problems with the fontanelle.

"I stay here in the village with my other two sons and their wives. Those three – Macheso, Tafadzwa and Nyadzi – know each other well. I have no idea if they go to traditional healers, and prophets to treat sunken fontanelles, it's their choice. I have only heard of such a practice from newspaper stories," she said in an interview at her rural home in Mapuranga Village under Chief Musana, Bindura,

She last saw Macheso in Harare last month when her granddaughter, Sharon, was customarily married.

"They sent a car to take me there. I only spent a night and returned home. No one told me they were facing serious problems. They kept me in the dark. Who between Macheso and Tafadzwa is talking about the fontanelle?" she asks.

Macheso has not been to his rural home in two years, she says. The last time he passed through was when he was returning from a gig in Shamva, she adds. She says she has heard most of the details of the issue on radio and from fellow villagers who read newspapers.

Now she, too, wants to know if her son will go ahead with the paternity tests. She hopes to hear new information each time she turns on her radio since Macheso, Tafadzwa and Nyadzisai have not informed her of the latest developments.

"Tafadzwa and Macheso would come together long back. Then Tafadzwa and Nyadzisai would visit. Then they all stopped visiting," she recalls.

She also explains how frantic Tafadzwa and Nyadzisai were when they visited her a few weeks ago and only stayed for an hour. It was not an ordinary visit: Tafadzwa's baby was not feeling well, she had a fever and diarrhoea, and was vomiting.

"Maybe this is when all the drama started. They asked me to look for traditional medicine to cure the baby. I went into the bush and brought some roots which we used on the baby. As soon as they got medication they left, they never sleep here whenever they visit. Their recent visit lasted one hour," she says.

Even on this hasty visit Nyadzisai and Tafadzwa did not say anything about Macheso allegedly inserting his manhood in his kids' mouths. But just a week later, she heard of the break-up on radio.

She is worried about her son's image and does not know how to get in touch with him to hear his side of the story. "I did not call Macheso because he does not have a phone. They have my number but they never called to tell me what has been happening. Their break-up and all that has been happening worries me, but now I do not care much, they have not told me," she says with a distinct tone of resignation.

Even if she is angry, she does not take uncomplimentary remarks about her son from neighbours lightly. "I tell them off because they do not know the real story but want to be gossips. I tell them to keep that knowledge in their homes.

"I want Macheso to tell me what is happening, period," she asserts. The daughter-in-law who usually calls her, she reveals, is Nyadzisai.

"I will even use airtime worth US$5 talking to him and his wives . . . I will deal with the three. I will put my son aside then first deal with the two wives separately. I do not want people who stress my child. When Macheso decided to marry Tafadzwa, I also had a terrible time as they had serious problems with Nyadzisai who did not want the new wife. As time passed, I saw them getting along very well. What has gone wrong now?" she sighs.

She is hurt by all that has been happening but will not come to Harare. "I am hurt. It's better to be in the village because my blood pressure will go up when I get close to the action in Harare. I just pray."

Just a few kilometres from their village lies Chabwino Farm, where Macheso grew up, there is a traditional healer, Loveness Kutambura (57), who assists many babies with sunken fontanelles.

She says: "Yes, it's possible, a father can use his manhood to cure a child's fontanelle."

Kutambura, however, says this is done differently from the way Tafadzwa claims Macheso did.

"I have helped many people cure their children using the proper way. No father is supposed to put his manhood into his baby's mouth," she explains. According to Kutambura, the ritual is carried out before sunrise and by a father who is not promiscuous.

She says the mother holds the baby while the father performs the ritual usually soon after birth. "The father takes his manhood and slides it from between the baby's eyes to the middle of the head. He then slides the manhood from the back of the head to the middle. Then, the father slides the manhood from the left and right ears also to the middle of the head.

"This should be done by a father who is clean. If done by a promiscuous father, a baby could become seriously ill and even die." She says not many people still treat their babies' fontanelles that way.

"Most parents who come to us now tell us if they want us to use holy oil or traditional herbs to treat the fontanelle. That practice of a father doing it is fast fading. Maybe they are doing it behind closed doors."

She outlines the symptoms of a sunken fontanelle: "The baby's mouth turns whitish and you also see a line. The baby's body temperature rises and he or she vomits. Some have lumps on their gums long before their teething time. If you see such symptoms then you know the fontanelle has sunken.

"Some also have a lump the size of a finger tip on the throat. You can feel it and rub it while still small. It can grow the size of a boil if not treated early. This type is dangerous as it may burst while the baby is breastfeeding. The puss from the fontanelle can go into the baby's stomach causing death."

Another traditional healer, Sekuru Mwale of Epworth, says if indeed Macheso put his private parts in his son's mouth, then it is wrong. "We do not do it that way. There is a proper way that does not involve such heinous acts," he says.

Mbuya Emma Matupa (60) – also of Chabwino Farm – was married to a Malawian national. Her husband never used his manhood to treat any of their nine children.
Says Mbuya Mutupa: "I went to faith healers and also used traditional herbs to treat my children's fontanelles."

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