Two people sat together on the night bus, or the “night compost” as we called it then. It was sometime in 1997. I was 16, he was much older. Fresh on my mind was the fact that I was going to my 3rd Secondary School.
I had attended Kamuzu Academy for my first year of Secondary, had been very playful there and was deemed not capable of making it into the next class- I had been 11- I have since forgiven myself for failing everyone. Hmm. I had proceeded to study at St. Theresa’s High in Swaziland, my parents decided to return to Malawi a year and a half before I completed my Secondary-I have since forgiven them for failing me. Hmm. I was now riding on the bus to my third and last Secondary School. A boarding school. About 7 hours from home. The school was Mary Mount Girls Secondary School in Mzuzu.
He was heading to Mzuzu for goodness knows what. All I remember was we sat next to each other and started to talk. Strangers heading in one direction. Chit chat. I wanted to sleep but when he told me his name, Chimwemwe Festino, I sat up and took notice. Even by then, he was a household name, a sports reporter of great repute. He shared the adventures of his job and I told him the adventures of my little 16 years; of travel and school. Must not have been too impressive. His were more interesting. He was a reporter after all and had traveled far and wide.
He shared about the time he was on a bus in Lesotho,“Oh! That mountainous country! Do you know, I was on a bus there and it was so COLD. The bus driver put the heater on and fell asleep. Before we knew it, the bus was careening down the mountain! We all shouted, DRIVER! DRIVER!” I listened with keen interest, laughing, frowning, as the stories came. Wondering whether I would ever have such adventures.
Today I heard the news that Chimwemwe Festino is no more. The bus memory came to mind. He was one of those people you hear about in the media,he wasn't a reporter anymore, he'd gone on to do greater things in the Malawian sports world. You always think people in the news are a fixture. They will always be there, contributing to the nation’s progress in one way or the other. What a life he had, and what a loss to our nation!
Rest in Peace Chimwemwe Festino