MEMORIES OF 105-YEAR-OLD MAN

Man recalls the day Mzee Jomo Kenyatta ‘gatecrashed’ his wedding

Centenarian James Kashorda has had a long and colourful life in Kajiado

In Summary

-His wedding in 1948 was a big event with a crowd that had never been seen in Kajiado

-The non-smoking teetotaller loves ugali, traditional vegetables and has never been taken ill

Mzee James Kashorda (C) with two of his sons, Barnabas Letayian (L) and Salaon Kashorda (R)
Mzee James Kashorda (C) with two of his sons, Barnabas Letayian (L) and Salaon Kashorda (R)
Image: KURGAT MARINDANY

At 105 years, James Kashorda is full of energy. He celebrated his birthday last Saturday in Enoomatasiani village, Kajiado county.

Kashorda has never tasted alcohol or smoked cigarettes in his entire life because he sees no value in them.

His memory of events and dates is strikingly exemplary. He remembers vividly how he survived a deadly grenade blast that happened in a Karen village in February 1926, when he was only 12 years.

“My father, Ekang’ole Kooi, had moved with my brother and me to an area along Lang’ata Road, near the current home of the late John Keen. It was in the afternoon when other children found a grenade used during the 1914 World War in the bushes and decided to bring it to our manyatta,” Kashorda says.

“I was in the adjacent manyatta, while my brother and father were in the next one. As they examined the grenade without knowing exactly what it was, it fell on the ground and blew up. More than 10 people died. My father was hit with shrapnel on his back, while my brother was also injured.”

His father and brother were treated at Kenyatta National Hospital, formerly King George VI Hospital, after the incident was covered by the East African Standard.

The centenarian remembers vividly the day he interacted politically and in social life with the likes of the late William ole Ntimama, John Keen, Justus ole Tipis, Stanley Shapashina, and Prof George Saitoti, who he now refers to as “children at our time”.

“Ntimama used to pass through my house while he was at Jeans School, Nairobi, and my late wife, Tabitha, would prepare him tea. He was a disciplined boy, who respected elders, unlike Keen, who was very playful,” says Kashorda as he smiles at his modern home in Enoomatasiani village.

The old man told us his story in the company of his two sons, Salaon Kashorda and Barnabas Leteyian, 64, and their father’s house help, Jane Murema, from a neighbouring country.

“I came to learn later in my life that my father was actually a Maasai from Matapato. He was kidnapped by Kikuyu warriors when he was herding his father’s livestock around Nairobi and taken to work as a slave among the people of Mutoine in Central Province around 1901,” Kashorda says.

His father laboured in Kikuyu land until he was naturalised later as he grew up and was allowed to marry from the community.

“He loved livestock and as his herd multiplied over the years, and he was forced to move back to Kajiado, where he traced his parents back in Matapato near the Namanga border with Tanzania,” Kashorda says.

 

BASIC SCHOOLING OPENS DOORS

Kashorda’s father loved his children but made no effort to take them to school until Rev Musa Gitau decided to take Kashorda to school after he was circumcised in 1934. He belongs to Ndururu age-set.

He started school in Kajiado’s Kerarapon School near Ngong and later moved to Thogoto, where he ended his schooling in Class Five in 1942.

After completing school, he decided to look for a job. The only job he could get was to deal with livestock. He bought and sold cows for profit.

In December 1942, Kashorda walked from Ngong to Kajiado town and was received by an old friend he did not name.

The friend introduced Kashorda to a white man in Kajiado who was travelling to Arusha. He asked him for employment as a clerk and got it instantly.

“He told me to go to Arusha, and in February 1943, I started my long journey on foot to Namanga, where I met my parents. I asked them for a blessing before embarking on my long journey on a truck to Arusha,” he said.

He was later posted to Oldonyo Sabuk, where he continued working for the white man as he earned Sh40 per month.

He said the amount was able to buy at least three cows each month. He bought many cows as he continued working as a clerk. At some point, his salary was delayed for four months, but he was eventually sent the money.

On receiving the Sh160, he was envied by everyone near him because no one had ever been seen with that kind of money, when 50 cents could buy a grown-up goat at the local livestock market in Bissil.

He remembers very well that in 1944, there was hunger in Kenya and his parents in Namanga were greatly affected by the drought.

“I travelled home to visit my parents and what I saw devastated my heart because no one in the village had virtually anything to eat. I used my salary to buy them goats and cows for slaughter. I told our neighbours to take the cows I bought and slaughter them for free, but to bring back fat, heads and skin so I could sell and trade on them,” he said.

 

MZEE POPS UP AT MARRIAGE

In 1948, his uncle told him to get a woman to marry because he was growing old. Instead of searching for one, he told his uncle to look for at least three of them so he could choose one from them.

“When I set my eyes on Tabitha, one of the three selected by my uncle, I knew she would be my choice for life. Indeed, I married her. My relatives fixed everything for me to have a church wedding in Kikuyu, and I had my final reception in my Enoomatasiani home,” he says.

During the reception in Olkeri ward, Kashorda said he invited very many close friends, and among them was the late Eliud Wambu Mathu, the first African member of the Legislative Council of Kenya, who represented Central Province. The politician’s wife is the younger sister of Kashorda’s wife.

Mathu was a former teacher, civil servant and later a politician who served in LEGCO from 1944 -57.

Former President Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi was the council’s member for Rift Valley.

“While in my wedding reception at my house, I spotted the late founding father of the nation, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta in the crowd. I had not invited him but I guessed Mathu brought him around. It was a big event with a crowd that had never been seen in Kajiado,” Kashorda said.

At the time, Mzee Kenyatta was a pan-Africanist and was trotting the globe, giving lectures abroad on why Africans should have their own governments.

Kashorda’s wife is a daughter of the late Barnaba Nyoike, who is the father of Kimani Wanyoike.

Kashorda’s father paid his son’s dowry in Matapato, giving out 12 cows to Nyoike before he allowed his daughter to leave his house.

On marrying his wife, a friend gave Kashorda 50 acres, on which he has established a home.

Two years after his wedding in1950, Kashorda joined Ngong Veterinary Training Centre, where he trained on hides and skins after he was invited by Dr Mann.

After training, he worked for one year and later in 1952, he was appointed by the colonial government to sit in the Ngong Court Tribunal, along with two other people he only named as Sayioki and Kiok.

Their role was to moderate cases against the natives in a court that had a white magistrate.

“After serving for one year, I said I will not continue serving an institution that was full of corruption. In one year alone, we ate more than 300 goats given to us as bribes so we can irregularly overturn certain cases. I said let me be poor and serve my only living God in my church,” Kashorda said.

He says in 1952, when the government declared a state of emergency, all the Kikuyus in Kajiado’s Ngong area were chased away. He was not touched because it had become known all over he was the son of a Maasai.

In 1963, Olkejuado County Council employed Kashorda as its revenue clerk in its Ngong office. His duties were to collect cess and rent from the council houses.

“Rent at the time was Sh2 per month for most of the houses. In 1964, land adjudication was done in Ngong and the surrounding areas of Ongata Rongai, Kiserian and Matasia. I worked with the council for 20 years and retired in 1982,” Kashorda said.

 

WIDOWER LIFE

Kashorda has contributed to the construction of many churches and schools in Kajiado North subcounty. He helped initiate the construction of Oloolaiser Secondary School, which the government later upgraded to a national school.

Kashorda, who lost his first and second wives to natural causes, washes and dresses up without assistance.

He has scheduled his time from Sunday to Saturday from reading the Bible, newspapers, watching the news on TV and praying for people who visit him at home.

He is driven to church every Sunday and later brought home by his sons, and on a normal weekday, he wakes up at 8am to read the newspapers before having his breakfast.

At 9am, Kashorda goes to bathe in his specially designed bathroom, where he also applies lotion before moving to his dressing room.

Murema, the house help who interacts more often with him, says Kashorda is “strict but lovely” old man who does his work according to time.

“When it is 1 o’clock, I always find him on his dining table, taking warm water as he waits for his favourite meal of traditional vegetables and millet ugali,” Murema said.

Kashorda says he has never been taken ill, except on two occasions when his brother was murdered by Mau Mau adherents in Namanga, and when he had a clot in his head, which was removed in hospital.

“I feel as if I am in my 40s. I do everything for myself every day and am not complaining. Nobody helps me to walk around because I believe I am still strong,” he said.