The death of historian, economist and writer Desmond Dudwa Phiri has been described as a loss to the country.
Popularly known as DD Phiri through his weekly articles in The Nation published by Nation Publications Limited (NPL), died at Mwaiwathu Private Hospital in Blantyre where he was receiving medical treatment for about three weeks.
NPL head of sales and marketing Macdonald Kadewa, the company’s official spokesperson, yesterday described DD Phiri as a source of historic and analytical information.
He said: “As NPL and through our media platforms, DD Phiri enormously contributed to the country through his well-researched articles in areas of history, politics and economy, just to mention a few.
“He was a true patriot and we will miss his contributions through his articles that informed different professionals and also shaped public opinion.”
On his part, Malawi Writers Union (Mawu) president Sambalikagwa Mvona described DD Phiri as a great friend of Mawu and “an encyclopaedia” of history.
He said: “We as Malawi Writers Union will remember him because apart from being Mawu board chair, he was instrumental in the training of our young writers. He has been training authors for quite a long time since the inception of the union.”
Mvona said the skills and immense knowledge that DD Phiri had will remain incomparable.
In a Facebook post, award-winning film producer Charles Shemu Joya described Phiri’s death as a loss, saying he will forever remain alive through his writings.
He wrote: “He saw the value of history and chronicled the lives of many Malawians who would have been forgotten had he not taken it upon himself to write about them.
“Even when we did not listen, he never gave up. Like a true prophet, he warned us of our economic downturn if we did not stop corruption and truly, his word came to pass.”
Joya further hailed DD Phiri’s ability to simplify complex issues in his writings for the ordinary person to understand.
Responding to Joya’s Facebook post, renowned poet and University of Malawi (Unima) registrar Benedicto Okomaatani Malunga said DD Phiri was “a multifaceted institution in his own right”.
He commented: “Formidably well-read and therefore adequately informed, he was the epitome of the benefits of continuous education. His scholarship was about delivering tangible results all could see.”
According to Malunga, the books DD Phiri wrote are a source of enlightenment that future and present generations will tap knowledge and wisdom from.
DD Phiri has been acknowledged as one of Malawi’s most eminent authors and historians.
Since 1993, he regularly published The DD Phiri Column on Tuesdays in The Nation, and the Economic and Business Forum columns carried on Mondays and Fridays in the same edition. He also wrote the DD Phiri Insight in The Daily Times.
In his lifetime, he wrote over 20 books on history, fiction, biographies and culture. One of his books, The Chief’s Bride, published in 1968 was adopted as part of the syllabus in Botswana and received wide acclaim in American learning institutions.
DD Phiri said of the book in an interview with The Nation in 2010: “It has been reprinted 18 times. But here at home, I am well-known for other books like the History of Malawi which is one of my main books.”
In the same interview, DD Phiri said he would love to be remembered as “a man who learnt to teach others”.
Unima also conferred on him an honorary doctorate for his well-researched, thought-provoking books and columns. During the country’s 40th independence anniversary on July 6 2009, former president Bingu wa Mutharika accorded DD Phiri with the national orders of Senior Achiever.
An ardent admirer of Ghanaian nationalist Dr James Aggrey, DD Phiri opened and named his distance education institution in Blantyre Aggrey Memorial School.
DD Phiri, who was died aged 88, was from Ematheni Village, Traditional Authority M’mbelwa in Mzimba.
He was a graduate of the University of London in economics, sociology and history. He served in Malawi civil service from 1964 and retired in 1976, according to his son Kwame.
He said: “Dr. D.D. Phiri had a long-life passion for writing which began as a young boy at Livingstonia and Loudon in Rumphi. He has written over 20 books on a variety of subjects.
“He was constantly sought by both national and international students for historical and economic sources.”
DD Phiri is survived by his son Kwame Phiri, 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Kwame said the body of DD Phiri will be collected from College of Medicine mortuary at 3pm today for a vigil at New Naperi pending burial at HHI Cemetery on Tuesday.