Faith Kandaba put to Rest: more than a ZNBC staffer

On 24 February 2016, the nation woke up to the shocking news of the death of Faith Kandaba, a highly professional and outstanding public servant and citizen of our country. Immediately after Faith's heart ceased to beat, the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC), the national public broadcaster for whom she worked over many years, took to its Facebook page to communicate her departure from the world of the living: ‘ZNBC regrets to announce the passing on of its staffer Faith Kandaba who passed away at the University Teaching Hospital this morning. May her soul rest in eternal peace.’

Soon after, a friend of mine, who is not a journalist, asked me: ‘Is that all ZNBC could say? That they regret the passing of one of their staffer? It is Faith Kandaba who has died here! They ought to say more!’

I understood my friend’s outrage more than I understood the message from ZNBC, who ordinarily should be in the forefront of stressing the important work that journalists do in our society. Faith’s death is not simply a new beginning to an old process. It represents the loss of something more, something bigger – an entire world, a unique perspective, an amazing mind. We are a nation that is hardly known for identifying, recognising and celebrating its heroes and heroines – people who have made a career out of making the most valuable contribution and greatest difference they can in the areas that matter most and in ways that significantly enrich our lives; fellow citizens who have laid their talents, aptitudes, skills and even lives at the disposal of the common good. It therefore did not come as a surprise to me that ZNBC found no need to provide even a summarised paragraph of Faith’s life that tells us who she was, what she achieved and the major stories she covered in her illustrious and extensive career that illustrate our recent national history.

How apt that ZNBC could casually dismiss Faith as nothing more than 'its staffer'. It may be that the ZNBC writer behind the Facebook message lacks imagination, was so distraught by Faith's demise that they could not compose themselves well, or remains completely unaffected by her death, perhaps because they did not know Faith, that for them it represents nothing more than just another death. Ironically, creativity, composure, sensitivity and awareness represented some of Faith's outstanding personal qualities. The response from ZNBC for me is not accidental. It very well highlights the kind of colleagues she worked with and leaves behind, and demonstrates the tragedy of what we have lost in Faith. In the end, perhaps like the ZNBC writer, we failed Faith because in truth we hardly saw the best of her; we only got a glimpse of what she really was: a ZNBC staffer. Her passing and the casual response from ZNBC remind me of the words of former Lusaka resident Thabo Mbeki who, on the passing of Alfred Nzo, a South African hero whose personal experiences illustrated the nation’s broader history, wrote:

“The days pass, each year giving birth to its successor. What has passed becomes the past as time erodes the memory of what was [once a] living experience. In their recalling, old joys expand into enlarged pleasure. Old wounds fade away into forgotten scars or linger on as a quiet pain without a minder. Those who gave generously of their talents to lighten our moments of darkness, do not want the embarrassment of the enthusiasm of our gratitude. Those who brought us intolerable pain and took away our days of light insist that nothing should be recalled, lest we impose on them the pain of guilt and on ourselves the pain of our memories. And so what was slides away as though it never was."

Faith’s demise truly expresses the meaning of a word I hardly ever pay attention to: untimely. May we, as Zambians who knew that Faith was more than ‘a ZNBC staffer’, never allow her memory and the values that she expressed to fade away as though they were disposable. May we, though dead, bring Faith back to life.

Sishuwa Sishuwa