Until now, I am still in a mood of existential doubt about the news that Hardy Nyirenda is no longer with us.This existential doubt started when I lifted my finger and dialed his number at around 11:AM on friday[18/08/06]We had agreed to meet at my house[on saturday-evening 19-08-06] partly to discuss a few things but most importantly to pick a hard copy of late Albert Muwalo's judgment where the notion of no smoke without fire was applied.
He had made this request on malawitalk.Unfortunately,I had no soft copy and I could not find time to re-type the 32 paged document.I therefore asked him to come and pick his copy.
Within minutes of dialing his number,I suddenly found myself bewildered,shocked and surprised at the news that my friend hardy had added "LATE" to his name.As my desire to speak spluttered and momentarily died,I felt a bit like a solo pilot whose engine has just cut out in the mid atlantic.I did not know what to say to Rhoda[hardy's wife]Here I was, trying to speak to person who was dead 30 minutes before my call.Rhoda, late hardy's wife realized my voice and she had to collect herself before breaking the news.
"YOUR FRIEND DIED AT 11:AM FOLLOWING UNSUCCESSFUL OPERATION AT KINGS COLLEGE HOSPITAL" she informed while sobbing.
I last spoke to hardy barely 13 days ago.The UK high commissioner had prepared lunch for Malawian londoners and had offered me an opportunity to invite friends.Hardy could not make it because the day coincided with his program in Manchester.
There is an old saying - don't judge a man in ragged cloths as someone who is poor and not worthy of recognition. The name Hardy is rarely heard off on the list of post independence freedom fighters but Hardy Nyirenda will be remembered for his bravery acts at chancellor college when he poetically attacked the Malawi congress party's CCAM[chitukuko cha a mayi Mmalawi] in 1988 through his famous story of Come-Come And Mend.
The CCAM organized functions at the university which students, especially women, were obliged to attend. What had incited him to have a go at the CCAM was that they had erected some exhibition stands on the college's hockey ground,in the process destroying the beauty of the ground.Hardy was passionate sports man.
Here it would appear Hardy's supine love for sports was tasted to its fullness and using his mastery of poetry and figurative expression,he decoded a story which was published in a campus magazine"chilunga news letter " He further took an opportunity to use the campus magazine to express his deep political views against MCP policies.This led to the publication of highly sensitive topics where a number of grievances were raised including the introduction whereby students were admitted by region of origin rather than purely on merit.
The Chirunga Newsletter also criticized a decision not to readmit students who had interrupted their studies for maternity leave. This decision was taken without warning and without retrospective effect. Finally the magazine was critical of high rates of interest on student loan scheme, funded out of foreign aid grants.
"The editor of the Chirunga Newsletter, George Chazama, and two of his reporters, were called before the Vice Chancellor of the University, Dr. John Dubbey, and told they were suspended for the remainder of the academic year. This was confirmed by a letter of January 23, 1989 which stated that the contents of the magazine were "considered prejudicial to the good order of the university. On February 6 four students--George Chazama, Peterkins Chinoko, Tasosa Gondwe and Hardy Nyirenda--were expelled from the University. The expelled students were prevented from getting jobs and believed that they were under threat of arrest.The suspensions provoked the first ever student demonstration at the University [Africa watch pp90].
These people were the salt of the new found freedom and were the pillars of democratic struggle.Their willingness to chalenge the autocratic rule in ways that veteran politicians could not by way of publishing the cries of most Malawians and their most honest concerns were not ordinary acts but sadly their courage remain unsaid.
One thing that has not been mentioned here and in most transitional literatures is the fact that most of Hardy Nyirenda's views against CCAM were also picked by a veteran exiled journalist late Mkwapatira Mhango whose house was blown apart in the process wiping out the whole family following his attack on CCAM .
Who ever interacted with Hardy will bare testimony on one thing:He had an impact on people.He had this amazing pollen that would make you like him.He knew how to communicate his radical views and managed to skip through.This became apparent when a young lawyer by the name Ralph Kasambara who decided to defend the suspended students ended up becoming one of his best friend towards the end of the first quarter of 1992.This relation continued until his death such that the former AG called me to confirm about his friend's demise.
When he was re-admitted,he continued writing but this time , contributing to various news papers notably the monitor,and other tabloids.It was during this time, that he made himself available to the media world following an article in the enquirer where late Dr Kalonga Stambuli had written an article outlining the economic prospects of Malawi if Malawians were to elect the UDF government.In the article,late Stambuli argued that UDF will use "network analysis" as one of their benchmark for the country's economic success.
This argument troubled Hardy.In no time he dispatched a scholarly written article to the "Democrat" where he attacked Dr Stambuli saying that such complicated process could not be manned and understood properly by the UDF leadership which according to him was composed of failed pedestrian entrepreneurs therefore a dangerous delusion on the part of Dr Stambuli.The article was a hit.It had commentaries more than any article in the democrat [judged from the comments to the editor]
The Democrat management of the time Dr Mapopa Chipeta and Mayinga Mkandawire were left with no option but to offer him employment.Here he met other talented young firebrands in the name of Charles Simango,late Dingswayo Chirwa,Mntheto Lungu and together, they formed a team any malawian paper has ever seen.They forgedgood working relationships too.I was not surprised to receive another call from his old friend Charles Simango who called me from chancellor college where he is reading his Masters certificate in international .....[I cant remember]
It was at the Democrat that he made his name through a personalized column titled "Hardy's Image".He latter established himself as a sports analyst this time writing under a pseudo name of Nick FAO.
He captivated his audience and made them feel as if they were watching a live game.In fact reading his sports comments,you will be left with an impression that "Malawi will win the world cup"
He too had a satirical way of looking at issues.His favorite player was "Nyalugwe" and when he was roughed up by late Dickson mbetewa in one of the highly emotional soccer competition, Hardy wrote
"for reasons best known to his ancestors, Dickson mbetewa tackled the terrific left magic footer with a condemned rugby tackle"
Like so many before him in particular those who had tried to walk the path of compassion by way of freedom of expression during the UDF era,Hardy was violently attacked by the young democrats. But with courage gained from his social democratic convictions, he was able to walk where the brave could dare not go to render encouragement to good-hearted people and those in despair.Thus he comforted the likes of Chinyeke Tembo who suffered similar fates. He did so joyously and with no complaint or regrets because he believed in the power of reason.
Hardy had a very unique way of expressing his comments.I remember inviting him home last year for an arsenal match.I had just received a bottle of sobo[orange squash] and we thought it will be better if there was some african snacks.Since we had little time, we settled at "Dzitumbuwa"
In no time, we bought some banana,crushed it and mixed it with maize flour and later fried them. "Madam musavutike ndife .Kasi kuno nkhu ingilandi" he told my wife while going past her to our low linteled kitchen unit. I was upstairs when he tested the first one.
He could not resist starting with a confit belly of a self impressed chef
"Oh Bright" he sighed.I rushed downstairs hoping to hear something like "it is nice or sweet or at worse something has gone terribly wrong" but to my surprise and whilst munching the first chitumbuwa with his eyes closed, he commented thus "Kapoto aka ni kawemi" a rather crude tumbuka translation for "This pot is great"
"Hardy, I thought,you would talk about the greatness of chitumbuwa and the memories it brings about home?" I asked
"No, you need to appreciate the dynamics of this pot before enjoying the chitumbuwa"
I joined him in the testing staccato and we could not stop eating from the boiling pot since it sounded too much for an appetite that had already been given a thorough work-out by an array of traditional canapés and amuse-bouches which was hopping with astonishing speed into our mouths.
We had just finished eating them all when my wife asked thus:KODI AZIMBAMBO INU, SIMUTIGAYIRA??? While I was struggling with the most suitable words to explain the situation, Hardy had a readily available answer
"ACTUALLY, THERE WAS A CRISIS" he started and we all laughed.
During his short stint in journalism, Hardy wrote numerous articles with an impressive arsenal of words.His greatness and radical views will be remembered by a few.Sadly in Malawi,there is no memorial to writers and journalists who risked their lives in bringing about change the way Hardy Nyirenda and friends did prior to and soon after referendum.Even the dead,long gone before Hardy ,the likes of late Obrien Mapopa Chipeta,Matembo Mzunda,Meki Ntewa,Chakufwa Chihana and many others would not reject the idea of having to crown the likes of Hardy as fallen heroes and give them the respect and dignity they deserve.
As for journalism, hardy Nyirenda will be remembered for his unique way of describing senior politicians.
Describing hon Tembo he once wrote:
"What is known about him comes from a chain of someone claiming to know someone whose uncle is a friend to an uncle of someone who has worked with a friend who has a brother who has a friend who knows a friend that knows John Tembo's friend"
Mourning is hateful and irksome to poor human nature. From suffering and sadness our spirits instinctively shrink. By nature we seek the society of the cheerful and joyous.The measure of a man is not judged by his lifetime achievements but rather the impact of his talents,achievements and skills on others.Hardy Nyirenda was one such a great character.
His work may have been forgotten or deliberately ignored by the political elite.But surely he was not an ordinary person.I was happy to have known him.I was happy to have spoken to him a week before he died.But I am saddened to have called him 30 minutes after being pronounced dead. I did not know that he was admitted at the kings college hospital.May be If I had known,I would have visited him and whisper into his ears"Bamdala,KAPOTO AKA NIKAWEMI"
To his 7 year old son
To his 5 year old daughter
To his lovely wife Rhoda,close family and friends
Your loss is our loss
RIP HARDY I was 30 minutes late,I wish I could talk to you.I may do it in heaven
Bright MacE Malopa