On Tuesday, tears and a sombre mood engulfed the media fraternity.
Tito Banda, a legend who had pioneered creative writing and professional journalism training, had passed on.
According to a press statement from the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi chapter, Tito succumbed to a brain tumor at the Mwaiwathu Hospital in Blantyre.
It was hard to swallow—a humble, quiet, ambitious and passionate writer—was really gone.
Tributes that have been showering on the social media and Namisa forum attested to how much the artist has contributed to the development of journalism and creative writing.
Almost every newsroom in the country has a Tito protégé.
He nurtured the majority of great journalists in the media today.
Blantyre Newspapers Limited reporter Gregory Gondwe noted: “I realised that when I was starting practicing journalism back in 1993 with the Malawi Democrat, it was more like groping in the dark until Tito Banda brought me the light in 1997.”
Tito’s long-time friend and workmate Levi Zeleza Manda described Tito’s death as a big loss to Malawi.
He said he was pioneer of professional training in journalism and one of the finest writers, editors and teachers.
“We have lost a great writer and teacher. His initiatives have helped to transform many people and we are talking of professional journalism. He was ambitious and braved the hard times to form media service outlet and journalism school. I am in pain to lose him,” said Manda, adding that Tito also contributed to the founding of the Misa Malawi chapter.
Until his death, Tito was a senior lecturer in literature and creative writing in the department of languages and literature at the Mzuzu University.
Born on October 24 1949, Tito hailed from Chigude Village, T/A Kampingo Sibande in Mzimba. He went through the corridors of Chigude and Elangeni primary schools in Mzimba before proceeding to Mzimba and Nkhata Bay secondary schools.
He joined Nkhata Bay Secondary School in 1968 where he did Form Four and Five before sitting for the Cambridge International School Certificate examinations.
This is where his writing career started to blossom.
Having served as the editor for Mzimba Speaks, a school magazine he co-founded at Mzimba Secondary School, Tito was also among the main contributors of the magazine between 1967 and 1968.
Passionate with writing, Tito could not accept to rust at home while waiting for the Cambridge examination results. He joined the writing course at the Christian Literature Association in Malawi (Claim) as a correspondent student.
But despite his superb performance in the course, he wanted something tougher.
In an interview in March 2011, Tito said he grew up wishing to become a secondary school teacher. He said, he believed in that he can do better in education than anything else and so he wanted to start the journey through Soche Hill Teachers Training School which was the only producer of secondary school teachers.
Unfortunately, he was selected to Domasi College of Education which by then was training only primary school teachers. While at Domasi, he authored many articles which were published in various books, magazines and newsletters.
After just a term at the college, one of the lectures helped him to join Claim as a trainee writer in 1971. Claim sent him to Zambia to train as a journalist at the African Literature Centre (ALC) in Kitwe.
When he got back, he rose to the post of editorial trainee and his main duty was editing and translating manuscripts into Tumbuka, Chichewa and English languages that is why his name appears in many Tumbuka books.
Available on the market today are the Mitala and Kasi Mitala Njiweme which he translated from Chichewa to Tumbuka.
Another chapter of his life opened when Claim wanted to start a magazine in 1973.
They wanted a graduate to work as an editor and he was sent to the United States in October 1973 for training. He did a preparatory course in journalism at Messiah College of Liberal Arts before doing a Bachelors degree in Journalism at the Temple University where he graduated in 1976.
Upon his return, the idea for the magazine hit a blank. This saw the writer flying to Nairobi where he worked as an editorial Assistant in the information department under the All African Conference of Churches (AACC).
His contributions to the Africa Acts Feature Service in Nairobi attracted many publishers in the country and they wanted him most.
Some of the articles that attracted more comments were The Developing Lilongwe and First Woman in Theology in Malawi.
At the age of 30, Tito had already published his first novel Sekani’s Solution. Thus, in 1980.For those who have read it can still appreciate the use of language and the artistic weaving of words that drags one towards the end. It was among 55 books from 17 African countries shortlisted to compete in the Noma Award for Publishing in Africa.
Tito’s writing prowess created more jobs for him. While in Nairobi, Zambia’s ALC approached him to lecture journalism and he spent four years at the college between 1980 to1984.
Home sickness haunted him in 1984, but because of political environment, he opted to concentrate on teaching rather than journalism.
While at Phwezi, Tito, who has left a wife and four children, published another novel A Bitter Disapproval in 1987.The novel centres on the belief of traditional medicine among most Malawians.
Coming of referendum marked another chapter to his writing and training career. He teamed up with Kaulanda Nkosi and Levi Zeleza Manda to form a media outlet called KTZ (Kaulanda, Tito and Zeleza) Media Services which published the Listeners Newspaper in 1994.
He was also the first course manager at the Malawi Institute of Journalism (MIJ).
Two years later, the ambitious Tito, who always preached about professionalism among the writers, founded the Pen-Point School of Journalism.
However, the school did not live long because of the busy schedule he had after being appointed by the Nordic SADC Journalism Centre in Mozambique to train journalists in the SADC region.
This was also his final international assignment before joining Mzuzu University in 2004 as an assistant lecture. Nevertheless, this did not stop him from writing. In 2006, he published the Old Nyaviyuyi in Performance, an academic manuscript which contains seven popular tales from the Northern Region.
Some of them were authored by the late Enala Mvula aka Nyaviyuyi. The book is being used today at the Mzuzu University. Another novel is the The Luck Charm which is based on witchcraft issues.
In 2012, he graduated with a Masters degree in Arts Literature from Chancellor College of the University of Malawi.