Tears. Two coffins. A writer and a pastor’s wife on their last mile. It was a tearful farewell as two bereaved families found themselves condoling each other at what was supposed to be a final song for departed writer and media trainer Tito Banda in Mzuzu yesterday.
At exactly 10.47am, a Toyota Land Cruiser carrying the body of the author who co-founded Pen Point School of Journalism arrived at Viyele CCAP Church in Luwinga Township hot on the heels of the funeral procession of Victoria Ngulube, a widow to the late Reverend Steve Kamanga who served at the church.
The climax of the solemnity that greeted the crowd which spilled outside the church on the sunny day came right at the start of the prayer ceremony when representatives of the deceased’s families dedicated almost a minute of their speeches to consoling each other for the loss of their beloved ones—a son and a mother, they said.
This was not the send-off those in attendance may have expected for the author of A Bitter Disapproval, Sekani’s Solution, Old Nyaviyuyi and The Luck Charm who died of a brain tumour at Mwayiwathu Private Hospital in Blantyre on Tuesday.
The clergy who presided over the function saluted the 64-year-old as a dedicated faithful who frequented the church like the departed pastor’s spouse who died suddenly on Wednesday.
Just a kilometre away, silence and empty lecture rooms was the mood at Mzuzu University (Mzuni) where Banda not only contributed a stock of books to the library but also spent the past 10 years as a lecturer in literature and language.
“Tito Banda was a good friend and a colleague. Everywhere I go, people are saying we have lost a good man, and too soon. We will not forget his contribution as a trainer,” said Mzuni vice-chancellor Dr Robert Ridley.
Media Institute of Malawi (Misa-Malawi) President Anthony Kasunda paid a tribute to Tito for pioneering journalism training and spearheading the formation of the local chapter of the media institute. Banda was among the pioneer course managers of the Malawi Institute of Journalism.