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Botswana’s Methuselah

Publishing Date : 19 November, 2019

JEFF RAMSAY
BUILDERS OF BOTSWANA

Believed to have been born by the second decade of the 1800s, by the time he died in 1945 Senang Ditsela was believed to have been the oldest person in the world, as well as being the longest-living Motswana on record. From his own accounts he lived an eventful life.



As a Mokaa boy growing up during the mfecane/difaqane era, Senang accompanied the invasion force of the Bangwato Kgosi Kgari, which was defeated by the army of the Banyayi Mambo Chilisamhulu Nichasike in the Matopos c.1828. When the Amandebele of Nkosi Mzilakazi raided the Bakaa, c.1835, Senang was captured. Thereafter, like many other young Batswana at the time he was acculturated to become an Amandebele warrior, being inducted into Mzilikazi’s Chindebadala regiment.


As a Ndebele he subsequently survived fights against the Boers, Bangwaketse, and Bangwato. After thus spending half his life among the Amandebele he fled Lobengula’s rule in the 1880s to return to his own people, ultimately settling among the Bakaa community in Gammangwato. There, in 1911, he is known to have married a twenty-nine-year old.


By the 1930s Senang’s remarkable longevity began to attract worldwide attention. In his final years of his life he was interviewed by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), the American National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) radio services as well as being the subject of newspaper articles.

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