By SHAMAOMA MUSONDA-
VETERAN commentator and journalist, Dennis Liwewe was yesterday given a befitting send-off as he was put to rest at the Leopards Hill Memorial Park in Lusaka.
A somber atmosphere characterised the burial procession of Zambia’s legendary commentator who died on Tuesday after a liver ailment.
And he did get a befitting send off via a State Funeral, coming after a three-day national mourning with his family praising all especially Government, stating that very few civilians, who are not politicians get such a worthy send off.
High-profile personalities like First Republican President Kenneth Kaunda, Cabinet and Deputy Ministers, past and present soccer administrators, players, friends, work mates and fans escorted the family in helping take Liwewe to his final resting place.
The dignitaries took turns at passing their eulogies of a man whose lowest point in life came when the entire Zambia soccer team and official perished off the coast of Gabon in 1993.
That incident even kick-started his slow-down in radio and television commentary life after doctors advised him to stop and quit his passion. And ironically, he died six days before the country commemorates the 21st anniversary of the Gabon Disaster.
Liwewe’s old mate, Maxwell Sichula, who worked with him at Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM) and fellow football enthusiast, gave some moving memories of his interaction with Liwewe including the lobbying for the introduction of annual sports festival and also the
instruction of semi-professional football at some ZCCM sponsored clubs.
“Born with one kidney in 1936, Liwewe lived like he had both and died happy to have lived long enough to see one of his greatest ambitions come to pass and that was watching Zambia lift the Africa Cup in 2012. Before that, he agonisingly saw his beloved Zambia football team lose in the finals to then Zaire and Nigeria in 1974 and 1994 respectively,” he said.
Sichula also recounted how Liwewe turned out to be an attraction at football matches as he screamed out commentaries to the Zambian listeners highlighting the 1988 Seoul Olympics in South Korea.
He then advised Zambians to pick two things from Liwewe’s life which were his undying passion for the game as well as humility.
Liwewe’s daughter Kwangu touched on his dad’s humility stating in her tribute that “despite us being children of a hugely famous man, you never brought us believing in that but you taught us to be humble, respectful and God-fearing”.
Ponga Liwewe in reading out the life history narrated how his father, born on the shores of Lake Malawi in 1936, acquired his education in Zimbabwe and got trained as a teacher before moving to Zambia in 1962.
In Zambia, he joined the Nchanga Mines as a reporter and when the Chingola based mine was later integrated with other mines on the Copperbelt to form ZCCM, Liwewe became Director in the Public Relation wing before he left the mining giant for a private working life.
He also spoke about how his father excelled in broadcasting, travelling across the globe and got a rare rewarded of the Order of Distinguished Service (ODS) in 1977 by Dr. Kaunda, the first journalist to be handed such a high honour in the country.
That was the public life but Liwewe also had a private life in which was married to Sylvia in Mufulira 50 years ago and have four children Ponga, Kwangu, Linda and Liwewe. A God-fearing man, Liwewe was a Canon in the Anglican Church.
Former Foreign Affairs Minister Benjamin Mibenge spoke highly of Liwewe, who was a motivation to footballers past and present and was also an ardent reader, writer who also wrote a book ‘Soccer in Zambia’ and was in the process of writing a second book.
Mibenge said whereas his commentaries took him places, his whole life revolved about football and even in other activities he was involved in like the Future Search. He said his lectures were based on how a team can recover from a losing position, using different tactics and key substitutions over overcome challenges.
Even when the BBC asked him how he met Sylvia, he explained it using a 3-5-2 formations and later changing to 4-4-2 in the second half and once hitting the cross bar and his woman played hard-to-get.