MARGARET CHISANGA and MUMBA MWANSA, Lusaka
MARGARET Chisanga: I knew her name before I met her. As a sub-editor, I would work on her stories and wonder how she managed to do it. Travel all over the world, I mean.
Her byline said she was all over the place. Sometimes in remote parts of Zambia, other times in some exotic African country. For some reason, I remember her as always being in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Maybe she went there a lot.
Sithembile was her name. Sithembile Siwawa, then later her byline changed to Sithembile Zulu. She found love, and was honoured with the gift of marriage.
I heard of her before I ever talked to her.
“She has a sharp tongue,” they said.
“She can be rude at times,” others said.
And so I avoided her, and was apprehensive when I heard she was to be my new neighbour on the Subs desk.
But I was charmed when I met her. She walked into the subs desk with a buoyant attitude and was quick to learn. I realised the sharp tongue was just a façade to cut off unnecessary chatter. We shared common interests and her wide knowledge on gender issues, women empowerment and entrepreneurship was a subject of our conversations. She had access to numerous sources and soon, we were making connections for interviews, scoops, trips and all things media. Pondolism we called it. The crew included Doreen Nawa, Christine Chisha and Violet Mengo. Ifipondo doing pondolism. But it was really just the art of media networking.
Soon we were laughing like good neighbours should. Laughing at people’s Facebook posts and laughing at our own efforts to get away with doing little work. Laughing at how I am always trying to squeeze in extra hours on my overtime sheet so I can have money for clothes. Especially after checking a Fashion Express pull out with things on sale. Am laughing and crying as I write this, such were our days as neighbours.
I introduced her to my entrepreneurial grind. The Avon business. Soon we were making extra money and discussing bigger business ideas.
She introduced me to fashion. I admired the way she dressed. Smart, elegant, and yet so simple. Sithembile could pull off any outfit.
Ours was a friendship just blossoming. Like two little girls just introduced at kindergarten, exploring the world while getting to know each other. And just like little girls, we had our differences. We were both deeply religious, but chose different paths to enter the heavenly gates. I choose to remember her as a little girl entering the gates of heaven, one hand holding on to the hands of Jesus. The other hand waving goodbye to me……it’s an image I find easiest to cope with.
Good bye Sithembile – Keep a spot for me in heaven.
September 10, 2017 brought a dark cloud on our Zambia Daily Mail family.
Daily Mail sub-editor Mumba Mwansa says: “Life sure… Why are we the young and so full of life dying at a fast rate? Sithembile Zulu, I remember how much you always asked me about labour [child birth] and if I was not scared of it. You were indirectly telling me you were scared. But I always assured you that labour is not scary and you were going to pull through just like I did.
“I was excited when I heard about your safe delivery yesterday [Saturday]. This morning, I told myself am going to call this ‘chi girl’ in the afternoon and ask her how she is doing and congratulate her! Little did I know that the time I was thinking about her, she was actually about to leave this earth. You were my most troubled workmate and friend. Am touched and disturbed by your death Sithembile! Who will I be teasing in the office sure? May your soul rest in peace mama!”
Having worked with Sithembile in the Subs office for over a year, she can be described as one who was committed to her work. She was able to speak her mind and fought for what was right and just.
She was a gender and child activist as can be evidenced by her passion to write stories in that area.
Media Network on Child Rights and Development executive director Henry Kabwe wrote on his Facebook page: “…Sitembile Siwawa Zulu…death is at it again! A friend and equally passionate journalist has been plucked away from us. Dedicated to duty during our media bus campaigns on early childhood care, development and education around the country, you had no time to relax. Yours was work – sending stories to base.
“When an opportunity for becoming sub-editor emerged, I was given the privilege to confirm your capacity and you never disappointed. Oh death, such a young soul. The Media Network on Child Rights and Development (#MNCRD) has lost two of its prized members in a short space of time. Our condolences to the husband, management and staff at the Zambia Daily Mail and her family. Rest in peace.”
Of course there is no work without play. Sunday Mail reporter Doreen Nawa, who is also one of the late Sitembile’s close frienda wrote on her Facebook page: “You always put a smile on my face. No matter how mad I was, all I had to do was call you and you would make everything better. Today [September 10], you are no more, am empty, am broken. I drop down to my knees.
“I am reduced to nothing as I sit here looking at your picture. All I want to do is hug you and laugh with you and travel the whole Africa with you. I miss you so much even in death. From the calls and messages I am getting, the whole continent of African agriculture soldiers feel the pain.
“Your baby is only a day old. You didn’t deserve to die. You got married less than a year ago (September 24, 2016). It’s not easy for me. Every time I look at your pictures my eyes start to water. I will never forget you. I love you and miss you, but I know that you are in heaven looking over all of us. I can’t wait until I get to see you again. Now I know the meaning of the saying, ‘The good die young’. Rest in peace my friend and sister Sithembile Zulu.”
Daily Mail features reporter says: “Sithembile was a focussed and determined young lady who knew what she was doing. Her career development was shinning, recording both local and international awards. I will deeply miss her calmness in the manner she handled issues. Go well junior cipondo – as we joked.”
And Sithembile’s sister, Nokutulu Siwawa-Muleya describes her as a pillar and hard worker. “She stood her ground. When she said no, it meant no. She was full of life. She had a caring heart. Whenever you call upon her, she would be there for you.”
Sithembile was the fifth-born in a family of six. She was born on January 31, 1988 at the University Teaching Hospital. She did her primary education at Chisenga Lumbwe Primary School in Lusaka and later moved to Arakan Secondary School, where she did her junior and senior secondary education.
She then went to ZAMCOM to study Journalism and she obtained both a certificate and diploma. Sitembile then joined Yatsani Radio, where she was a part-time news caster before joining Zambia Daily Mail as a reporter who specialised in child and gender issues.
In June 2016, Sitembile was employed by Zambia Daily Mail as a sub-editor, a position she held until her death on September 10, 2017. She was married to Victor Zulu, the Daily Mail ICT manager, and has left behind a five-day-old baby girl.