Beyond tragedy:unsung heroes who helped Malawi cope

By Geoffrey Justice Kawanga

The tragic event of the plane crash, which claimed the lives of Vice President Saulos Chilima and his crew, left the country devastated. The events that followed, including seeing off the bodies of those distinguished sons and daughters of the soil we lost the cruelty of death, were heart-wrenching.

Malawi wept, and it was almost unimaginable to process how people who were in the thick of things, making sure that everything went well — from repatriation of bodies from the tragic scene, to Kamuzu International Airport and the mortuary, to their resting places — were feeling.

While it was not a competition of fame, it was inevitable to acknowledge how some people tasked with challenging roles rose to the occasion by putting  outstanding performances. The tragedy that befell this nation was so difficult for one person to handle. However, there are some people worthy of acclaim owing to how they ably executed their roles.

If we are to investigate the most searched and talked-about name in Malawi over the last seven days, besides the fallen Vice President, without a doubt, it will be the name of Calvin Emmanuel Mlelemba. Major Mlelemba is the MDF Spokesperson. Beside being tasked with the responsibility of responding to questions from the media on issues surrounding the plane crash, Mlelemba was the Master of Ceremonies for the Vice President’s memorial, notably at Bingu National Stadium, and his burial at Nsipe. In both outings, Mlelemba made the functions lively. He explained the MDF rites in a manner that non-military people could easily understand.

While Mlelemba became a household name due to his central role, another key figure who deserves mention is Secretary to the President and Cabinet (SPC) Colleen Zamba. As SPC, Zamba ensured that all planned arrangements were executed flawlessly, from repatrition of bodies from accident scene to overseeing every logistical detail from start to finish. This was no small feat.

Zamba was also constantly by the President’s side during this period. Notably, she was present at Kamuzu International Airport when President Chakwera received the bodies of his fallen Vice President and the eight other victims from Chikangawa. She was also present at the Bingu Stadium for Dr. Chilima’s memorial where she delivered a heartfelt eulogy for the departed Veep, and at Nsipe for the burial.

Throughout this challenging time, Zamba took instructions from the State President regarding burial arrangements for all nine individuals, apprised him of progress, and coordinated with stakeholders. She attended Cabinet meetings, issuing instructions and ensuring a seamless process.

Although her role was largely behind the scenes, Zamba’s contributions were invaluable. While some might downplay her efforts, saying she was simply doing her job, it’s essential to acknowledge her exceptional work during a difficult time. Despite facing demonization in the media, Zamba rose above; executing her duties with exceptional skill and dedication.

In the face of unimaginable tragedy, Zamba’s hard work and coordination ensured a dignified farewell to the departed. Her efforts, along with those of other coordinated units, demonstrated exceptional teamwork and dedication.