Bongani Ndlovu, Showbiz Correspondent
WHEN Jani John Ngulube was born, 102 years ago, the world was grappling with lockdowns, social distancing, wearing of masks and sanitising due to the 1918 Spanish flu locally referred to as iFreza, and two weeks ago, he celebrated his birthday under similar circumstances.
Khulu Ngulube who has lived in two eras that have changed the life of the world as we know it, celebrated his birthday in Bulawayo under lockdown. He held a birthday party, but not the one people are used to as it was virtual through Zoom, where his offspring joined him from all parts of the world.
After encountering the Spanish flu that killed an estimated 17 to 100 million people worldwide, Khulu Ngulube is living through another pandemic, Covid-19, that has ravished the world, killing over 600 000 people worldwide and as of yesterday, 26 in Zimbabwe.
After 63 years of marriage, Khulu Ngulube has 13 children, 21 grand and eight great-grandchildren.
When Saturday Leisure spoke to Khulu Ngulube last week, it was said he was selective to people he spoke to and how many minutes he gives them.
The first thing he asks is your surname and your village of origin. After answering those two questions, he starts off the conversation by narrating about his life and how he grew up rearing cattle in the rural areas.
Some of the cow’s names include Jamluthi, which seems to have been a popular identifier for animals in most villages, even to date.
“Growing up was a great time because food was abundant, kwakule nala, sasibhula amabele, siselusa inkomo zikababa. Bless and Jamluthi are the cows that I remember during those days. I was in the bush herding them,” said Khulu Ngulube.
Born on July 10, 1918, in Somabhula, Khulu Ngulube survived the Spanish flu that was called iFreza during his upbringing.
“I heard about iFreza then and fortunately, I didn’t fall ill with it. I haven’t and don’t plan to fall sick from it (Covid-19) now,” said Khulu Ngulube.
According to Khulu Ngulube, his great grandfather was Manyoba, who became the father of Msehla. Msehla was King Mzilikazi’s advisor and the two travelled together from South Africa to settle in Matabeleland.
Msehla was the father of Mahlanza, who was born at the state house and he became the father of Khulu Ngulube, whose mother, Mahlangu was Mahlanza’s third wife. Mahlanza worked in Gweru (Gwelo) at the Native Commissioner’s office now called the District Administrator and Khulu Ngulube lived with him.
Khulu Ngulube attended Dadaya Mission and was taught at one time by Sir Garfield Todd, a former Prime Minister of Rhodesia.
He attended Tsholotsho Government school and completed a building course. But Khulu Ngulube’s father was not happy with his son working with mud so he brought him back to Gweru and taught him office work.
His life’s history is long as at one time, he was part of the Allied Forces and was posted to guard the Italian prisoners of war until the war was over in 1945 in Rhodesia at the Gatooma (Kadoma) Concentration Camp.
After the war, he went back to police force in Morris Depot and he was sent for training as a court interpreter (umtoliki, as he was popularly known).
He got married and had four children with MaMkandla and was transferred to Inyathi with his family. Unfortunately, it was in Inyathi that MaMkandla passed on. He was then transferred to Esigodini (Essexvale)
Police Station as a court interpreter, that’s where he met his current wife Maria (Nee Ncube) who was a teacher. Together the couple had nine children.
Asked what his secret to long life was, Khulu Ngulube simply said honesty and integrity as he has never taken a penny that was not his, even when he was handling money at work.
“My enemies in life were those who did not tell the truth, and today, I’m so disappointed and heart broken by the level of dishonesty that is there in society. I used to cycle long distances, even when I had a car, I still parked it sometimes and cycled a lot.
“My main meal is lunch and I always put sugar and a pinch of salt in my tea,” said Khulu Ngulube.
Amazing enough, he drank beer most of his adult life, but when he turned 90, at his birthday party, he drank himself away with the Cool Crooners who provided entertainment at the party.
The following day he told one of his sons that the beer he drank at his party was his last, and since then, he has not had a beer.
He later got born again, loves the Lord and loves hearing His word as well as singing Ndebele hymns.
According to Gogo Maria Ngulube, Khulu’s wife of 63 years, Khulu Ngulube is a man who is naturally quiet.
“UKhulu is quiet and has a good sense of humour. He has been like that ever since we got married in 1957. I’m like that as well (reserved), I don’t like talking a lot,” said Gogo Ngulube.
She went on to describe him as a good man who raised his children with lessons in honesty and being morally upright.
Gogo Ngulube who is 86 said he loves his last born, Bongani the most.
“Every time that Khulu would come from work or anywhere, he would bring something for his last born Bongani. He loves him to bits. He is a good father who taught the children to respect each other, be honest and morally upright,” said Gogo Ngulube.
Asked about the glue that has kept them together for all these years, Gogo Ngulube said it was mutual respect for each other.
“We respect each other in marriage. I know he is the man of the house and he honours me as his wife. Also, we are truthful to each other. We don’t hide things from each other that may hurt our relationship,” said Gogo Ngulube.
“When we have disagreements, we don’t shout at the top of our voices like what the young couples are doing these days. We sit down and talk things over no matter how difficult the conversation is. No one shouts at the other as we give each other turns to speak. This is what our young couples should do.”
She added that her strong religious beliefs have been the cornerstone to their marriage.
“There’s nothing that you can do without God being the foundation of your marriage and in raising your children. That’s the secret to our happy marriage. I’m not saying there were no bumps on the road, but we’d put everything to God.
“That’s what we also teach all our children and I’m happy that they followed suit,” said Gogo Ngulube.