The first time I had a direct interaction with former Cabinet minister and Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) governor, the late Professor Mathews Chikaonda, was in January 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa, where we both went for the African Cup of Nations (Afcon).
He was among Standard Bank’s high-profile guests from Malawi. I was there covering the final stages of the African football safari as my prize for winning the Standard Bank Cup Best Print Journalist Award for the 2012 edition and boy, it was such a wonderful experience.
On the day of the final match, we were all supposed to travel to the stadium in a luxury coach. But somehow, I was so engrossed with a lady journalist from e-Swatini (then Swaziland) at the bank’s Global Leadership Centre lobby over lunch that I forgot about the departure time.
Suddenly, before I could get her contacts, Chikaonda appeared, I didn’t recognise him at first because he was spotting a cap and he wore it the other way round like a real ‘yoo’. Appearing jovial and relaxed, he said to me: “Young man let’s go! The bus is about to start off…if I were you, I would learn to keep time.” Then he turned to the lady and with a smile, he said: “Sorry mom! You will excuse me, this man has a case to answer.” Then we made our way to the waiting coach.
In the state of my embarrassment, I drew lessons from the incident, especially about the prof’s humility and that there was this other side of him than being a ‘10-point plan’ serious-minded, industrious, ambitious and innovative gentleman. It is an experience that has stuck in my memory bank. Therefore, when I heard about his demise recently, I was deeply touched.
Apparently, it isn’t the only stuff that I will remember him for. During a Carlsberg football sponsorship cocktail a couple of years ago, he also gave his other lighter side when he spoke about his passion for local football.
He narrated his yesteryears’ experience when he was dating his spouse, Violet, and how they would be involved in a flurry of mind games ahead of the Blantyre derby because he was a Wanderers fan while madam Chikaonda was a Bullets supporter. He also spoke about the need to calculate investment needed in local football so that Malawi becomes a star performer. Go well big shot! Uloliwe, Uloliwe Wayidudula Neng’asiza Hah! (Oh yes, the train is pushing). Glory be to God. n