A teacher, a mentor, a father


IN two weeks’ time we would have celebrated five years of working together, the fifth anniversary of The Patriot, but you are gone and there will be no celebrating with you.
The war veteran, author and journalist Cde Alexander Kanengoni is no more.
As I write this piece, I am still in pain and shock, I cannot believe you are gone, but what can I do other than write.
You taught us that a writer best expresses his or her feelings on paper.
My religion teaches me that when a person passes on, he/she ceases to know anything, it is the end.
I know it is a belief that would have fascinated you no end, you would have asked me to explain it, seeking to understand it.
That is who you were, you respected and took our beliefs seriously.
It is unfortunate that today I write about you gone from our midst, what pains me most is you will not be able to read or rather edit this story.
Memories of our time together are flooding back, engulfing me.
These are memories that will never fade, that will always remind me of your contribution not just to the nation, but every individual who had the fortune to interact with you.
All who have met you, had the privilege to exchange a word or two with you will testify to your goodness or if not your brutal honest.
You had the gift of words, a gift I admired very much as a predominantly arts reporter.
You were never one to beat about the bush, you always said what had to be said, the truth.
I remember my first days in the newsroom.
Fresh from college, I was not that confident, but you welcomed me with your wisdom, encouragement and appreciation.
Truthfully I had no idea what was expected of me and I did not have any experience at all and The Patriot was no ordinary paper.
I did not think I would last.
In fact at one time in those early days I thought of quitting.
And there you were Cde Kanengoni, an award-winning writer, honestly what were our chances?
We were not greenhorns, we did not even have the horns.
I am done, I thought.
But behold you were no boss.
You were a teacher, a mentor and a father.
What fortune!
You were patient with us.
Despite the pressure to deliver in those early days makati vhumbamira, the experience was surreal.
Our weaknesses were not a put-off to you, you taught us, demanded that those with experience teach us.
Then I was the youngest in the newsroom and you always referred to me as ‘the little girl’, but you nurtured me and today I am a grown lady who has flourished because you cared.
It was under your guidance that I grew into a confident reporter.
Did you know we called you ‘DJ’?
Well others may have had different reasons for calling you that.
I latched onto the name because back at college, at Midlands State University, there was a disc jockey by the name Kanengoni and everyone referred to him as ‘DJ Kanez’.
I guess that is what all children do, they give their parents nicknames.
Because of you I have come to know the newsroom as a beautiful place, not the hellhole described by others.
Most important, you saw improvement where others would not, you kept me going.
Your optimism knew no bounds for us, for the country.
From you I learned what it means to be a patriot.
Of course like any teacher, there were times you would bang that table, but up to now I still marvel at your ability to switch from anger to smiling, in an instant.
You instantly dealt with an issue and it would be forgotten.
The way you used words comforted and reassured us that everything would be alright.
At one time I thought it was a trend of the old to be optimistic, the nzira yemusoja concept that you were taught during the liberation struggle.
But I realised that it was your nature, your character could not have been developed in a classroom, it all came from within because it took no effort on your part to be kind and understanding.
In you I found some similarities with my father and you became my other father.
You were a father to many children, at home and at work.
You brought us maize meal and beans from your farm so that no one at work would ever go without lunch.
In the newsroom, during diary sessions, you taught us many things not taught in schools.
As a journalist, employee and daughter, I hold myself in a certain light because of you.
DJ! today I address you with a nickname familiar in the walls that make up The Patriot.
I call you as your student, subordinate and daughter.
I do not know if I will be granted the opportunity to see you again, if there is that next life, but I say to you: Go well and farewell!


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