Soldiering on: WW2 veteran looks back on 118 eventful years

2013-04-24 00:00

HAVING married a royal family member, fought in WW2 and raised 13 children, Themba Bernard Mkhize has lived a long and eventful life.

To honour him, Premier Zweli Mkhize handed over a rebuilt house to the war veteran in Ezakheni outside Ladysmith yesterday.

Mkhize claims that he will turn 118 on May 12. He was raised to have the strictest respect for his elders, which he believes is key to his long life.

In 1932, when he was 37, Mkhize said, he married a woman from a royal family known as “Kwa-mbekwa” in Matiwane near Ladysmith. He had enough cows to pay for his royal bride who gave him 13 children, including three pairs of twins.

In 1939 when WW2 broke out, Mkhize signed up to help the British Army.

“The British army noticed that it did not stand a chance to fight the Germans, and called a meeting with anyone willing to help. In return we would get a farm. People came in their numbers.” Mkhize recalled.

Mkhize fought in many countries. “I first saw the army in 1941 when General King Kaiser from the British hired me and others as scouts. We also fought in Egypt and France. There was no racial discrimination in this war; it was either you belong to the Germans or to the British.”

Mkhize was captured and was in a prisoner-of-war camp when the war ended.

“One day in prison, we heard a sound like rolling thunder. At first we thought it was war again, but I guess we were wrong. It was a gunshot symbolising the end of war … Later that day we were released from prison and this was how I got back home alive,” Mkhize said.

He received many medals for his service, but did not receive his promised farm.

Mkhize has put his life on the line in other ways.

“One day I was just walking in Soweto. I heard people screaming for help. As I approached them, I noticed that they were inside four or five tyres put together and all tied up. I was scared. I found out that some people were trying to burn them to death. Even if I did not understand why this was happening, I rescued them.”

From then on, he said, people respected him.

Mkhize will move into his new house with his remaining children and grandchildren.

A spokesperson for the premier, Reggie Khumalo, was unable to verify if Mkhize is the oldest person in the province, but if he is indeed 118, he could claim the world record. According to a report on News24 on April 19, the oldest recorded man in the world turned 116 years old five days ago.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.