‘I think God has forgotten me’

2011-05-28 15:56

When you have been alive for 116 years, you can pretty much claim to have seen everything.

And that’s certainly the case with Themba Mkhize from Ladysmith.

According to Jongukuthula Tshabalala, the local municipality’s librarian, Mkhize is recognised as the oldest man in the world.

Born in 1895, he was 11 when the Mbambatha war of 1906 broke out. He fought in the Second World War at the battle of El Alamein and in battles in Egypt and France.

He married his wife, Julia, in 1932, a few years before he left to fight in the war.

“That was the saddest experience of my life. I was lucky that I didn’t die in that war,” said Mkhize.

But he doesn’t regret anything – including being part of the war. He feels he is a hero and even if he dies, it will be in peace.

When Nelson Mandela was elected as the first black president, he was relieved that at last South Africa would be free from oppression.

Mkhize claims Home Affairs, better known as “Kwa-Ndabazabantu”, changed his actual date of birth to prevent him from getting a government pension.

“I was very hurt when they told me they would change my year of birth because I was going to eat the government’s money,” said Mkhize.

He did not know that he was the oldest person in the world until last week – when Tshabalala told him.

His recipe for longevity is respect and belief in God.

But time is taking its toll. Mkhize is struggling to keep up with new developments – he doesn’t watch TV and doesn’t have a cellphone.

But he knows the events of history as well as he knows himself.

“I don’t need them. My sons wanted to buy me a cellphone but those numbers are so small I can’t see them,” he said.

Mkhize believes his long life is God’s will and nothing else could have spared him for all these years on Earth.

“I don’t want to live any more. I think God has forgotten I also have to meet with him some day. My days on Earth are long overdue. I don’t get hungry or thirsty any more,” he laughs.

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