BORN during World War I, Ntshakaza Hombile still regularly cycles 25km to Fish River to spread the word of God.
Whether he is 102 as his ID states or 96 as fellow elders suggest, Hombile has more energy than most people half his age.
Born in what is now Martindale, Hombile has lived in the area his whole life. However he has left in years past to find work in cities such as Grahamstown, Port Elizabeth, East London and Johannesburg.
YOUNG AT HEART: Ntshakaza Hombile, who may be anywhere between 96 and 102, lives with his daughter Gladys on a farm near Shaw Park. He still enjoys an active lifestyle by working in their vegetable garden, weaving these grass mats and spreading the word of God on his bicycle Picture: CANDICE BRADFIELD
There were no schools in the rural areas when he was young so he never learnt to read or write or how to speak English. During his life he has worked in various areas of farming which included ploughing with oxen when he was younger. He ended up being employed in supervisory positions and has been the foreman at local pineapple farms.
He has lived on a piece of land on the road to Shaw Park for the last 30 to 40 years with his daughter Gladys who is 58 years old.
Hombile is the first born of 10 children – six brothers and three sisters. Only one sister is still alive today. He has seven children, about 20 grandchildren and about 10 great-grandchildren.
His wife Nosingile died about 10 years ago. It was she and their children who convinced Hombile to attend church services. Local farmer Leon Coetzee said he and his wife Maureen would see them going to church every Saturday on their way to Bathurst to open the shop they ran.
Coetzee acted as interpreter when he introduced TotT to Hombile.
He told us that before he decided to follow Jesus he was living according to traditional Xhosa customs, which included wearing strings of beads around his neck, ankles and arms. When he decided to start attending church about 30 years ago, he was warned by his brothers not to leave the traditional ways as he would be choosing the road to an early death.
Hombile attends the very active Seventh Day Adventist Church in Nolukhanyo township in Bathurst. The church runs a crèche called Tyilulwazi which church elder Anderson Gula translated as “open the mind” or “to broaden knowledge”. About 100 attend the crèche during the day and about 70 primary school children attend their aftercare program where their homework is supervised.
Hombile attributes his longevity to learning to be obedient when he was younger. If an elder spoke to him or corrected his behaviour then he had to obey.
Gula said he is also very selective about his food and mostly eats natural produce which he grows himself. He and his daughter look after the vegetable garden where they grow mielies, butternut, beans, peas, cabbage, carrots, beetroot, spinach and cauliflower. They also have several fruit trees.
Coetzee noted their generosity, saying that nobody who visited their house went away empty handed.
Hombile told TotT he cannot remember when last he saw a doctor as he is never sick. When he has a fever he uses herbs and leaves as a cure.
Coetzee sees Hombile as an example to emulate. For him, Hombile’s life purpose has been about what he can give back to God after all He has given to him. He also expects nothing in return, except to spread the Word.
“Life is not about chasing money. You can have integrity, dignity, a good reputation and be respected by the community without having riches,” said Coetzee.
Anyone who would like to contact Hombile can call Coetzee on 082-673-1492 or Gula on 078-466-8919.