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Meet the oldest man in Kenya

Posted by Administrator on January 24, 2012

Zacharia Kahuno is arguably the oldest man in Kenya. At 112, the colonial civilservant is using his pension to pay for his granddaughter’seducation.

As most centenarians sitpretty looking up to their offspring, Mzee Zacharia Kahuno Warugaiwhose age is estimated at 112 is using part of his pension to payschool fees for his orphaned granddaughter. The old man, who couldeasily pass for the oldest and active man in the country, has beenpaying school fees for the form three girl with the assistance of hisyoungest daughter since the girl joined form one. “Her mother passed awaya few years ago and her father is not quite able so when I heard thatshe had passed her KCPE, I decided to see her through secondaryschool,” calmly explained the old man as if that is what men of hisage do all the time.

Just a day before wevisited him at his Ikinu farm in Kiambu last week, Kahuno had paidout Sh10,000 for the school fees while his youngest daughter wassupposed to top up with an equal amount.

Kahuno was employed as agovernment “tax collector” until 1964 when he retired and iscurrently getting the ‘lordly’ pension of Sh3,000, part ofwhich he saves every month for the girl’s school fees. “The balance I use formy upkeep as I do not want to keep asking my children for handouts,”said the centenarian with a steady voice, firm handshake and vivid ifselective memory. “I cannot exactly recall what year I was employedby the government, but my starting salary as a tax collector was Sh30.”

The man whose slight buildcan safely be compared with that of the biblical Zaccheus who alsocollected tax at the time when Jesus was on earth became a PCEAelder on retirement from the civil service. He held this positionuntil recently when he could no longer move around much. The soft if firmly spokenKahuno who originally came from Ting’ang’a in Kiambu belongs tothe Kimiri age group that was circumcised in 1918. “I remember 86of us in that age group facing the knife in Ting’ang’a those manyyears ago, but when I look around, I cannot see any other survivors.Apparently I am the only one alive today.”

Kahuno who has only God tothank for his advanced age and good health clearly recalls the namesof the people who have recently visited him and even tells you whoamong his family members has neglected him and for how long. Believed to have been bornat the turn of the last century (1900), he told the Star that hisfirst encounter with the white man was at the tender age of betweensix and eight when he was employed a “lead boy” for cows thatharrowed the land at the Kiberenge (Mbo-i-Kamiti) farm. “I would lead the cowsthat were pulling the harrow while someone else pressed the harrow tothe ground to till the land. For this work I was paid three rupeesthat were equivalent to six shillings,” says the great grandfatherwho then lived with a nearby grandmother as his home was too far fromthe farm.

He would much later beemployed at the same farm as a clerk whose work mainly involvedverifying  the number of employees on duty, weighing harvested coffeeand at times helping the Mzungu in paying out casual workers. Heearned Sh30 per month. “We did not have manyexpenses and the money was practically sufficient for our needs. Iwould buy goats (at ten shillings each) and when I saved up to Sh60, I could buy myself a cow.” There was however no need to buyland at that time, as the clan land was still extensive and sparselyinhabited. “But later on when Ibecame a Christian (read enlightened) and as the population expanded,I saw the need to buy my own land here at Ikinu so that I could avoidthe crowding on my father’s land in Ting’ang’a.” He does notsay for how much he bought the land for or how big it is, onlyrevealing that the currency was goats with one goat being equivalentto ten shillings.

Kahuno started his formaleducation at the mature age of 18 at Kambui, but later transferred toNgemwa in Ting’ang’a.  At Kambui, a former First World War blacksoldier requested the Mzungu in charge to give him a teacher so thathe could start a school at Ngemwa. “At the end of 1918, ateacher was made available and six of us from Ting’ang’arelocated with him to Ngemwa to build and start a school. I vividlyremember us using the poles from my just deceased grandmother’s hutto put up the classroom.” Formal schooling in thosedays was synonymous with the teaching of the Christian faith and by1924, Kahuno was baptized at the Church Mission Society whichlater became the Presbyterian Church of East Africa.

He would not talk muchabout the freedom struggle as he says those in government employmentwere not allowed to freely mingle with the rest of the populationduring the emergency, only saying how as a tax collector or courtclerk he used to visit settler farms to collect tax from the‘natives’. “Most of the time wewere in the office, but at month end we would visit Wazungu farms tocollect tax as they paid their employees,” says the man who thenlived in Starehe.

Kahuno who has a problemremembering dates got married to his first wife while working withthe tax department, but she died in the early sixties forcing him tolater marry a second wife. “Following my baptism,I became a firm adherent of CMS and continued serving the church evenduring the emergency. I eventually got married in church to my firstwife Wanja”. The couple had sevenchildren, five boys and two girls, the same number Kahuno got withhis second wife Mwende, but hers were four girls and three boys.

The CMS however did nothave provisions for church elders, and it was not until on retirementfrom the civil service in 1964 that Kahuno was made a church elder ofthe PCEA Ngemwa church. He retired from thisposition when his advanced age could no longer allow him to performchurch duties at the Nyagoti PCEA church near his home in Ikinu, buthe continues to be a strong adherent of the church. He can no longerattend church service but the mountain comes to him in the form ofpriests giving him the Holy Communion at home.

The centenarian attributeshis many years on earth to blessing from God as he does not have aspecial diet, but until recently he used to walk for long distancesand has never gained weight. “I used to walk a lotand at one time as a colonial census enumerator in Kiambu, countedpeople on foot from Chief Kioi’s place (Dagoretti) to the ChaniaRiver.” That was the extent of Kiambu district then.

That is how 88-year-oldWilson Gituku remembers Kahuno; a slightly built man who was alwayson his feet. “He walked a lot and did not eat food rich incholesterol, so he has been slim all his life,” Gituku who is theold man’s nephew told the Star at his Gathaithi home. “Mygrandfather had three wives and Zacharia was the son of the firstwife.”

Gituku who confirms thatno other Kimiri age group person is alive today clearly remembers howas a small boy, he was among those who marveled at Kahuno’s job asa clerk at a settler’s farm. The old man states as amatter of fact that his wives are now long gone, “but it does notdisturb me much as the children are there when I need them.” A relative told us how theold man had transferred his wealth to the second wife, believing thathe would die before her as he was much older but when she died aboutten years ago, he was forced to change his will again.

Source: http://www.the-star.co.ke/lifestyle/128-lifestyle/59439-meet-the-oldest-man-in-kenya


3 Responses to “Meet the oldest man in Kenya”

  1. ITHAVETHI said

    Hongera kwako babu Kahuno kwa kutimiza karibu karne moja na robo kwa afya nzuri ambayo inanipa kinyongo na

  2. ITHAVETHI said

    Hongera kwako babu Kahuno kwa kutimiza karibu karne moja na robo kwa afya nzuri na tabasamu ambayo inanipa kinyongo. Ni kwasababu sina imani au matumaini kwamba nitafikisha miaka themanini kama nilivyojiahidi punde tu baada ya kuwa mzima. Chakula, mazingira na maji ninayoyatumia kila siku hususan tena imezoroteshwa na kuchafuliwa kwa kunyunyuziwa madawa yaliojazwa kemikali tofauti tofauti. Vyakula vya kienyeji havipendeki havipatikani na unapovinunua, vinawacha kibe

    ti changu kimebondeka bondeka hakitambuliki.

  3. Johana Wanjikru Thuku said

    Oh well !!another mightly blessed one. Congratulation for conguering the seconds, days , months , a year, a decade and even a century!!!!!!!!!!! wao is all I have to say. Wonder if I will make it there.

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