A dark clowd has fallen over Neno, eating through the ever smiling lips of people long used to smiles amidst scanty resources.
The district’s oldest man, commonly known as Batembo, passed away this morning. He was aged 107.
Hospital, church and voting certificates indicate he was the district’s oldest man.
Batembo has spent the past two years of his life at Neno Shelter for the Aged, an institution established by Minister for the Elderly and People with Disabilities, Reen Kachere.
Kachere established the shelter before making it to the National Assembly and subsequently ascending to the position of Minister. Its launch was graced by Bingu Silver Grey Foundation Executive Director, Frances Mkandawire. It is at the centre that Mkandawire made one of her strongest speeches yet, describing the aged as ‘Moving and living history’.
One of the Shelter’s top officials, Noel Mkandawire, confirmed the death of Batembo today, saying people will remember him for his jokes, advice and courage.
“We are very sad,” Msiska said, reflecting the mood of many other people Zachimalawi interviewed in Neno today.
Batembo, to quote Mkandawire’s words, was more than ‘moving and living’ history.
He is the man behind the main grader that ate through Neno’s virgin forest cover, to pave way for bare ground later christened ‘The road to Mwanza (a neighbouring district to Neno).
That was always Batembo’s sweetest moment: driving a grader at a time natives were largely under-rated and looked down upon.
Some say the role of a shelter for the aged is to escort them towards the way of all the earth, death; not with Neno Shelter for the Aged.
According to Kachere, the mission of the centre is to help elderly people live sweet, happy, fruitful, long lives.
Thus, naturally, she is pained by Batembo’s passing on.
Passing on? Yes. Some people pass on; others pass away.
Those who ‘pass on’ are believers- people who believe in life after death, and face it (death) with equanimity.
Those who pass away are the atheists and mad scientists. Those who believe that life is lived ones; after that, no more.
Batembo has something after the closure of his Malawi chapter today morning: he has just progressed, according to Msiska.