Nolem Matebese Ramuso turned 114 years old on Saturday and says her secret to long life is eating iinkobe (boiled maize) and imfino (wild edible greens).
These and other organic foods were the staple diet for many rural people, especially among the AmaXhosa, for centuries.
The grandmother of 29 and great-grandmother of 12 celebrated her birthday with a massive cake at D J Sobey Old Age Home where she lives.
While the Mooiplaas-born centenarian is blessed to have lived longer than billions of other people on earth, she says she is now ready to die.
“I have lived a full life and I have many happy memories.
“I have done all the things I dreamed of doing and I have a big happy family.
“Most of the people my age have already gone. I would be happy if I were to go soon too,” Ramuso said.
On Saturday, family members and other residents at the home for the aged gathered in the main dinning area to celebrate her big day with her.
Seated in a wheelchair, Ramuso was full of life as her guests sang Happy Birthday before enjoying some cake.
Her youngest son, Mzimkhulu Matebese, 51, said he hoped to reach his mother’s age as well.
“It is a sign of good health and blessings to reach such an age, and I would like to see this age too.
“Growing up she was a loving woman, she loved having her family around her and hated family disputes.
“She always wanted to see everyone happy,” he said.
Matebese said his mother loved traditional beer, and kept a vegetable garden throughout her life to feed her family.
Ramuso was married but her husband died in 1976.
“And after 41 years she still hasn’t had a boyfriend,” he joked.
Pumeza Mpambani, 34, Ramuso’s granddaughter, spoke fondly of her grandmother, who still manages to walk without much assistance.
“She’s always led a healthy lifestyle. Not once was she admitted to hospital,” said Mpambani, adding that her grandmother did not suffer from any chronic illnesses.
“I remember as kids when we would visit.
“She would slaughter a cow for us and narrate stories of her upbringing,” Mpambani said.
She added that while her grandmother would still narrate those stories, her memory was fading and she would often forget the great-grandchildren’s names.
Ramuso is the oldest of three siblings and said her younger brother, who is 80 years old, is still alive.
“At the rate I am going, I might just outlive him as well,” she said.
Ramuso was admitted to DJ Sobey Old Age Home last year as the family felt she needed 24-hour care. — firstname.lastname@example.org