September 16 2021
It has been a hard week. The passage of Rafiq Hajat came as a shock too hard to cushion. Those in civil society activism will reckon he was too hard a force to reckon with.
At most, Hajat will be remembered not only as a human rights activist, but as one who never faltered, never gave way to oppression. He never said die.
It is unfortunate that we talk good things about people when they die.
Yet, that is how life is.
We never appreciate the good things until we lose them.
So, let it be with Hajat.
The climax of his life as an activist, for me, was on September 2 2011. And, hey, note that he passed on September 13 2021. And while you are thinking about that, his birthday was September 14! Should I bring September 11 2001 into the picture? No.
So, on that morning of September 2 2011, Rafiq was on the road to Lilongwe. There were protests he was part of organising. This was part of the protests he was to see through not only under Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda but also through Bakili Muluzi.
That time, it was against President Bingu wa Mutharika’s heavy fistedness that was pushing Malawians on the edge of their being. Mind you, this was part of the organisation of the protests that culminated in the famed July 20 2012 protests.
So, as Rafiq was on the road to Lilongwe, his offices at the Institute for Policy Interaction (IPI) were torched down. I was avoiding to attach him to an organisation, because that way, I could have talked of him as regards the Forum for the Defence of Democracy, a group he led with one prominent politician, Kamlepo Kalua.
The torching of his office was clear evidence that the powers that were, the Democratic Progressive Party, did not have regard for the sanctity to protect human rights and democracy.
In his death, Rafiq has taught us so many things.
It is sad that we talk good things about good people when they move upstairs. That is, however, why we are humans, because we never appreciate good things until we lose them.
Rafiq has taught us, there is life when you are principled. Even when you stand alone, truth is the very essence of our being.
We have seen activists fighting for a cause. They side with all of us.
But when that fight is won, they stand on their own. On higher ground.
That way, those of us on the street, lose trust. Rafiq built on us the trust, that come rain or sunshine, he is on our side.
The question now is, who has he passed the baton to? He has finished his race, but who will carry on the work?
I, for one, hope that the organisation he built will not die. We have seen far too many organisations built on a solid foundation die unnatural deaths because the foundation was lost. Organisations are built on the solid foundation of Malawians.
When the trust Malawians have in organisations is lost, the organisations are buried even before they are dead.
Let me not be long winded.
By the way, those who needed a shoe to be repaired, one time or the other, knew one spot to take it. Rafiq Hajat was the man. Rescuisat In Pace. Hamba Kahle.