The world’s oldest man is a Zimbabwean teacher who claims he is 119 and taught the country’s president Robert Mugabe as a young schoolboy, it has been claimed.
Oscar Munyoro Katsukunya claims he was born in 1897 in Kutama, around 30 miles west of the capital Harare.
This would make him 119 years old – matching the undisputed oldest age reached by Christian Mortensen from the U.S., who lived for 115 years and 252 days before his death in 1998.
The claim is particularly surprising considering the low average life expectancy in Zimbabwe. At just 47 years, it is one of the lowest in the world because of the country’s poverty – due to its crumbling economy, deaths from Aids and almost non-existent healthcare.
The retired teacher, who now moves around with the use of a wheelchair, claimed on state television he vividly remembers teaching Mugabe in 1931 at a primary school in Zvimba, where the future President grew up.
Mr Katsukunya claims he was 34 years old at this time and Mugabe aged just seven.
The frail pensioner spoke in an interview with the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation to recount his memories of the future president.
The ZBC reported: ‘Born in 1897, Mr Katsukunya says the story of his life saw him train as a teacher at Kutama and was then posted to Murombedzi which is within Zvimba district as part of his teaching practice.
‘Telling his story with difficulty now because of advanced age, he remembers vividly that the Robert Mugabe he taught at Sub A was an intelligent young boy.’
The programme was broadcast as part of a series of programmes on the station to mark Mugabe’s 88th birthday on Tuesday.
Mr Katsukunya claimed he was invited two times to meet Mugabe after he was elected head of state when Zimbabwe gained its independence in 1980 when the President ‘requested for his teacher’.
However Mr Katsukunya admitted his birth date would be difficult to prove.
WHAT WAS HAPPENING IN 1897
In the year Oscar Munyoro Katsukunya claims he was born…
- Queen Victoria celebrated her Diamond Jubilee marking 60 years on the throne
- The first taxis appeared on London’s streets
- Bram Stoker’s Dracula was first published, along with books by Rudyard Kipling and Somerset Maugham
- Oscar Wilde was released from jail
- Greek army retreats in Greco-Turkish War
The station reported that the colonial era government rarely issued birth certificates to black Africans and added that most nineteenth century births took place unrecorded in homesteads or huts.
The government-controlled network added that those birth certificates which were issued were usually done so several years after a child was born and that the exact date of birth was estimated by members of their family.
If Mr Katsunkunya’s claim is correct, the centenarian was born less than a decade after the country of Rhodesia was founded by British colonialist Cecil Rhodes in 1888.
The territory remained under British control until it was granted independence and renamed Zimbabwe in 1980.
The frail pensioner’s son told of his pride at his father’s achievements.
Emmanuel Katsukunya, 62, said: ‘I think he is a legend and hero in his own right. After all, he taught a head of state.’
ZBC reported the elder Katsukunya ‘wishes he could meet his student again one day before destiny catches up with him.’
The title of the world’s oldest man is currently held by Japanese centenarian Jiroemon Kimura.
Mr Kimura assumed the title last year following the death of American Walter Breuning, who was born on September 21 1896 and lived to the age of 114 years, 205 days.
The world’s current verified oldest person is American Besse Cooper, from Monroe, Georgia.
The retired teacher’s birth date has been verified as August 26 1896, making her 115 years and 180 days old.