Like all other deaths to Covid-19 have not been mere statistics but loss of someone’s relation or friend, yesterday’s death of legendary broadcaster and musician Maria Chidzanja-Nkhoma is a dark cloud that has fallen on the media and music industries in the country.
Her passing on has shocked many, including President Lazarus Chakwera.
Remains of this adorable daughter of the land, who workmates fondly called ‘Auntie Maria’ or ‘Anankhoma’ were interred at the Chinsapo 1 cemetery, Lilongwe, a few hours after her death, in line with prescription on Covid-19 deaths.
In terse eulogies during a burial ceremony monitored on Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS), where she worked as head of the women and children affairs section until her death, it was clear Auntie Maria’s death was sad, as it was so sudden.
In his eulogy, Minister of Information Gospel Kazako, who was ZBS executive director and resigned when he was appointed into Chakwera’s Cabinet, said he was saddened by the news.
“When I got the message of her shocking death, I called His Excellency [President Chakwera] to pass on the news. Delivering the message, the President took some time to respond. I asked if he was still on the line. He told me he was deeply shocked with the death, too,” he said.
Kazako described ‘Anankhoma’ as part of the backbone of the broadcasting sector.
“I knew her in 1990, when I joined MBC [Malawi Broadcasting Corporation] and we later worked together at ZBS. She imparted knowledge to all those who needed it. In her work, she was highly critical and working only for the best,” he said.
Kazako’s sentiments were echoed by Joab Frank Chakhaza, who spoke on behalf of ZBS.
“We have lost a creative employee who was approachable. Aunt Maria got along with virtually anyone—veterans and rookies. She efficiently taught us the job and good conduct,” he said.
Equally mournful was Malawi Congress Party (MCP) Central Region chairperson Patrick Chilondola, who said the party was at a loss.
“As a party, President Chakwera asked me to pass his condolences. We have lost as a party. Her father worked tirelessly for the party as a Cabinet minister as well as regional chairman,” he said.
Apart from being a daughter to Richard Chidzanja-Nkhoma, a Cabinet minister in Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda’s government, Maria lost in primaries when she wanted to contest on an MCP ticket in the Lilongwe City West Constituency in 2009.
As remains of ‘Auntie Maria’ were being laid to rest, her colleagues in the English Mass Choir at Maula Parish sang her favourite hymn Blessed Assurance.
In a statement announcing Chidzanja-Nkhoma’s death, Misa-Malawi said she had succumbed to Covid-19 at the Kamuzu Central Hospital isolation centre.
The statement, signed by Misa-Malawi president Teresa Ndanga, indicates that Chidzanja Nkhoma was born on August 9 1952 and worked as a broadcaster for 39 years. Her broadcasting career began in 1982, at MBC, before she joined Channel Africa, South Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) international service. After studies in the United States of America and the United Kingdom, she returned home to join Radio Alinafe as a volunteer, before joining ZBS.
“She was a source of knowledge and experience in broadcasting and will be remembered as an experienced and dedicated broadcaster and motherly figure to most journalists. She dedicated her life to journalism and her passion for the media sector will always be in our hearts,” said Ndanga.
Although she never recorded an album, Chidzanja Nkhoma’s performances for MBC Band and Woodpeckers saw her get international contracts in Zambia and Kenya. She also featured in two plays by theatre maestro Du Chisiza Junior: Cry the Beloved Soldier, which was banned during Kamuzu’s regime, and Check it Out, a play against Aids discrimination.
The one directing the solemn ceremony yesterday announced that the burial was a quick one, in line with Covid-19 deaths; otherwise, a properly organised ceremony, which will include a holy mass and laying of wreaths at her final resting place, will be held at Chinsapo on January 16.