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Farewell Readith: Memories of you in Liuwa Plain linger

I STRUGGLED to write this piece because the subject was a person who had become so close to me that I could not believe that the information I had received was true.
The news came to me through a text message from Mutinta Nyanga, a fellow newsperson from Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation, “How are you? How is the New Year? Have you heard that Readith, public relations officer at ZAWA [Zambia Wildlife Authority], has died? I have felt bad, it is sad,” read the message.
As I opened my mailbox I received another message from African Parks communications manager Cynthia Walley that read:
“Yesterday I learnt of the passing of Mwila Muliyunda. I am devastated, as am sure you are too.
“My condolences go to her family and to all of you who worked so closely with her. She was so passionate about conservation and, as a former journalist, was so proud of what you do to promote and advance it in Zambia. For my part, I am grateful to have known her and to have had the pleasure of working with her,” she wrote.
Cynthia describes her memories of Mwila as those that will forever be intertwined with Liuwa and the experiences we all shared there together.
And Simon Espley, the chief executive officer of African Geographic magazine, described Readith as a high-spirited person whose death is devastating.
“I saw the announcement this morning on the Zawa FB (Facebook) page.  Absolutely devastated,” he said.
“My memories of her are of this really classy, sassy lady with a huge smile – we had such an awesome chat [water pan in Liuwa] that evening at the pan when we conducted the TV interviews and enjoyed sundowner drinks – about life, love and everything. Go well guys, and make every moment count.”
Meanwhile Billy Kazoka, the news editor at Radio Phoenix, described the death as so shocking.
“All we can do is to honour her [Readith], defending what she stood for.
“I will always remember the wonderful memories of that weekend we spent in Liuwa National Park,” he wrote.
Readith Mwila Muliyunda was recently part of the press trip to Liuwa with a consortium of journalists from different media houses in Zambia.
She probably was a right description of an accomplished journalist, who rose from a court reporter at the Times of Zambia in Ndola, to communications and public relations officer for ZAWA.
She was one of the few women journalists who managed to perfectly combine print and broadcast journalism.
After graduating with a journalism diploma from Evelyn Hone College in 1999, Readith was given a mammoth task of manning the newly opened Radio Phoenix bureau in Ndola in 2000.
In 2011, Readith joined the Times of Zambia as a court reporter. She later moved to the business desk. She stayed at the newspaper until 2004 when she left for Canada.
Anthony Mulowa, Times of Zambia news editor, remembers Readith as a wonderful journalist.
“When I was joining the newspaper, she was one of the senior journalists, and this was the period when there was total animosity in most newsrooms, but Readith welcomed me very well,” he says.
Mulowa says Readith made his stay on the business desk comfortable before she got her scholarship to go to Canada.
“Readith was a fighter, she was determined to get what she wanted in life. I think, she lifted the status of ZAWA in the short time she stayed there,” he says.
In Canada, Readith was awarded a Sauvé Scholarship ( 2003-2004) at McGill University, an accolade given to highly innovative and motivated journalists with demonstrated leadership qualities.
She also scooped the Reuters Foundation Scholarship for professional journalists in the same year.
These were not the first awards in Readith’s life.  At a much younger age, she scooped second position in a nationwide science essay competition when she was at Holy Cross Secondary School in Mongu.
She died in Ndola on Tuesday, February 3 after an illness and was later buried on Thursday, February 5, in Kapiri Mposhi where her parents live.
Whatever the language, Readith’s death is a painful loss to the media fraternity. A kind of pain, which may only be compared to the effect of black widow spider bite.
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