Man Smokes ‘Red Mercury’, Loses Black Skin Pigment

What was supposed to be a normal day with colleagues after a hard day at the brick moulding home industry in the back of a squatter settlement of Mt Hampden, turned horrific for Joshua Mutimbanyana after his cigarette was poisoned with a highly toxic substance believed to be “red mercury” by an unknown person three years ago.

Mutimbanyana has since lost the black pigment of his skin and now resembles someone with albinism.

The father of two,  recently sat down with 263Chat to narrate his ordeal, which he believes was the works of a jealous colleague who however, remain unknown to this day and well, he has never bothered to report the case to the police but to date, he needs to know the motive behind the heinous act.

“I was born with black skin but one fateful day changed my life after some people I was socializing with tempered with my cigarette and put a toxic substance which medical experts believe is red mercury,” he told 263Chat recently.

Soon after smoking, Joshua says he started feeling itchy and later his skin swelled, sending him into panic mode.

“Within 24 hours, I developed sore blisters, my skin started to peel off, it was painful, very painful. I looked like a snake shedding its skin, the pain was unbearable.

“I then went to the local clinic and they conducted tests which revealed that I had been poisoned with an acid,” he said.

However, the horror show did not end there. Joshua says when he started losing his skin, he would have pus all over his body and at times he would just sit around while pus dripped oozed all over his body.

It became unbearable to people around him who then deserted him in the hour of need.

“I was scared that I would die, the medication I was given could only stop the pain and the doctors told me they could not do anything to save my skin.

“So I just watched while lost my black skin and I started looking white, more like an albino but I was not born with albinism. It got me more scared. I could not be in the sun, I could not go out to see anyone because every time I did that, it would be very painful. It was a horrific moment for me,” he recalls.

Due to the pus and the swelling from his body, the guys started producing an unpleasing oudor such that  he could not share a room with anyone.

“If losing the skin was not bad enough, the body odour was hell. I gave out a very bad smell, my wife and kids, relatives and friends could not be in the same room with me for long. I became isolated.

“I also lost my teeth and my gums have become very loose, I can’t chew hard foods, it is terrible and my ,mouth still produces a bad oudor,” he says.

Joshua added that he has since been feeling very lonely since his relatives are sidelining him, rejected and stopped interacting with him.

“The pain of being rejected started to get the better of me, I felt lonely. Of course, my wife helped but she is human,” he said.

Upon recovery, Joshua, the father of two realised that he would not be able to do outdoor activities as he used to.

He is suffering from the stigma which people with albinism are suffering in the country.

“Technically, I’m now an albino because I lost all the pigment and now the biggest challenge is I don’t have the medication and skincare which is used by people with albinism.

“I cannot be in the sun for long, if I do so, my skin hurts and itches. I develop blisters which make it impossible for me to work. Back then, I used to work in the brick-making industry, which is the only thing we can do here. I was the breadwinner and now they are all languishing in poverty.

“Now, I can’t do that, I rely on handouts, I have a family to feed and to top it all, I’m HIV positive, so the treatment requires me to eat healthy foods, which I cannot get,” he said.

Joshua said he has since stopped taking the Anti-Retroviral treatment as it makes him weak due to lack of enough food but that puts him at risk of falling ill.

“I’m surviving by the Grace of God,” he said before taking a deep sigh.

“People help me here and there but it’s not sustainable, it’s difficult for me. I’m a person who used to work hard for my family but I’m incapacitated, I’m appealing for assistance,” he said.

One local lady, Irene Ranjisi, an HIV peer educator has taken it upon herself to help Joshua and give him counselling since he is facing discrimination from  the community. She said she has been giving him information of the dangers of defaulting from his HIV treatment.

“After I initially encouraged him to get tested the biggest challenge was him defaulting from the treatment. He could not continue taking the treatment because of lack of food. The people he stays with deprive him of food and he lacks some basic needs like blankets, she noted.

In most cases, Irene added, they donate food to him but it is not sustainable, he needs more.

Despite defaulting from his ART Joshua said it not a wise decision and encouraged people to come and seek help.

“Please, don’t default from ART, its very important that one sticks to the prescribed treatment. It is also import for people who need help to come out and declare, they should not be ashamed so that the help needed can be extended to them,” he said.

Those who wish to help Joshua can contact Irene on 0773 274 294.

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