Good people, it was almost impossible for the late Gwanda Chakuamba to grace our Entertainment pages until the start of the end of his eventful journey on earth.
He was a politician, one who put up a good losing fight to grab a chance to rule this country. Being a politician alone did not banish him from this side of your favourite read to the current affairs side that his kind tends to dominate.
However, Chakuamba’s type, especially those who held top positions at the height of founding president Kamuzu Banda, are well known for sustaining a veil of secrecy as if they took some life-or-death vows not to open up on anything they might have seen with their eyes and heard with their ears.
Such is the secrecy that it does not only make some of us think the maker of the saying ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’ was actually their contemporary.
Others feel a generation of politicians that starred in the struggle to turn independent Malawi into a great nation have robbed the country of a historic era by not writing down their experiences for their children and future generations.
When it comes to this allergy to immortalise inside stories into books, it is never uncommon to hear Malawians asking why Kamuzu’s official hostess Mama Cecilia Tamanda Kadzamira has not authored a volume about her life by the sides of the man many revered or feared as the Lion of the Nation.
This is the league of Kamuzu’s apparent right-hand man John Zenus Ungapake Tembo who so loved Kamuzu that he has chosen to suffer in silence as the popular narrative reduces him to a living face of the atrocities of the one-party rule.
Equally culpable in the reasoning of those dying for more insights into the wanders of the country’s politics is the ‘talking computer’ Dr Hetherwick Ntaba, Man of the North Robson Chirwa and their type.
Listening to the futile cries, it is clear Malawians do not want our literate, vastly knowledgeable, old hands to go to the grave with their untold stories as was the case with Aleke Banda, Rose Chibambo, Bazaar Nyirenda and several others gone before them.
This is why I was spectacularly stunned when the cover of a paperback emerged on the web indicating Gwanda had written memoirs of his political life.
Those who knew him well have told us with rare generosity how the country will miss Gwanda, including former president Bakili Muluzi who tells us it is almost impossible to write the history of the country without mentioning the deceased.
Gwanda briefly toured with Muluzi’s United Democratic Front (UDF) shortly after his release from detention in July 1993.
Some will remember him as a political chameleon—or prostitute—for he served five parties and founded two in 22 years. However, some of us will remember the fallen hero, who kept packing his political luggage and leaving, for doing what most of his kind seldom do.
By writing a book, Gwanda has not only shared a part of his life. He has given generations to come a priceless gift that his peers kept to themselves.
His biographer Dr Felix Lombe tells me the memoirs offer candid confessions of a politician who had nothing to lose.
It will be great to grab a copy and get the brutal things that the people who yearn to rule us do and experience in their secretive word.
Gwanda may be dead, but his willingness to open up on things that were better kept in his heart should teach the living not to keep a tight lid on small things like a bout with slight rheumatism. n