So sad that I had to write an obituary for a loved one and friend in these times of COVID-19 pandemic. Before I go any further the lockdown has been extended by a further two weeks.
Gift Phiri, I am deeply saddened that you had to go this way when everything is on lockdown, how sad?
Sadder still, the last time we bumped into each other you had knocked off and you were about to drive away from that Eastgate Mall parking lot down from the first floor and you saw me stepping out as well.
Gift, you stopped your car on the driveway not minding if there was other motorists coming because you wanted to chat with me.
I didn’t realize it was you since you were coming from behind but you saw me and you dared to STOP.
I remember you telling me that you were rushing home because of your leg you wanted to rest and that you had cleared all the stories in your folder.
Just before you drove off you asked if we were going in the same direction so that you could offer me a ride home.
Unfortunately just like now, we were headed for different directions and you took a left and I took a right turn hoping to meet some other time for a catch up.
I was humbled that Gift even after you rose through the ranks you never looked down upon those you grew up with in the profession.
In fact, as I was with The Herald and you were working for the private media, we still found common ground especially at Quil Club where we used to hang out for a drink up.
I remember my guys from The Herald, Mike Jack Bond Munyanyiwa, Tendai Karumazondo who by then were sub-editors along with Kumbirai Mafunda, John Mokwetsi, Peter Matambanadzo, Stanely Kwenda and others we would join the likes of Takura Zhangazha, Stanely Gama, Dumisani Muleya, Jabulani JB, and others we were one united family regardless of where one worked.
Whenever there was an argument, Gift never budged in he would stand his ground. And that is how I have known you as a journalist. You stood your ground and stood what you believed was right. This is why a good number of fellow Cdes or scribes describe you as a human rights defender and not a boot licker.
I was impressed that you executed your duties diligently and without fear or favour. You never wrote stories as a political activist or party cadre but you remained a journalist.
You stood for what was right and you spoke your mind my friend. And for that I will mourn you.
That is what made you an affable and go to journalist. And your penchant to break stories is unforgettable. Quoting my fellow scribe Chris Muronzi he said about your nose for news:
“A vey competitive journalist who enjoyed breaking stories and doing the big stories/scoops as we call them. I remember, at various functions in those days, he would warn of many great stories he was working on among peers over drinks.
“In one of his posts here, he jokingly equated his role at the Daily News as the CEO of news. He was right. Running the shop floor of news is indeed a cumbersome job. When he left The Independent, he did lots of work for Wilf Mbanga’s The Zimbabwean and some foreign publications. After Daily News bounced back, he joined and in typical fashion distinguished himself as a political reporter of note. This saw him rise to the position of chief reporter, a feat in journalism and becoming deputy news editor and eventually news editor. An unassuming fellow with a hearty laugh and welcoming booming voice, he will be solely missed. Go well Gift Phiri, the CEO of News!”
Oh by the way, I enjoyed your versatility, the time you wrote arts and entertainment news it was one of my memorable moments with you.
We went for a trip to Hwange for a festival and there we had fun as journalists with our host being Prisca Utete then she was ZBC bureau chief. What happened in Hwange will remain in Hwange.
But Gift if there is something I cannot keep because like in Julius Caesar “the good is often buried with the dead” you worked your way up. Need I Say more!