Coping with the loss of a friend

July 17 was a Friday like any other; normally the highlight of the week at the office. The radio show is easy with live DJ mixes, live streaming and the rest of the day characterised by little pressure. This particular Friday, our colleague Emma said it was his son’s birthday and he wanted us to join in the celebrations, Friday had just gotten better. When the kids and the cake arrived, and just before cake cutting, Zachariah Mswati arrived. 

Mswati hosted a Saturday afternoon show but he normally dropped by on Fridays to check on us and do some preparation for his show. It was always a joy to see him, he had the brightest eyes, and short warm embraces. He didn’t know about the birthday but needed no invitation to join, we sang, ate cake, drank soda. All the while we reminisced on a road trip eight of us had made to Musanze the previous weekend, if only we had known it was his first and last with us maybe we would have made it last longer. 


After the party we got scattered, with some getting back to work, others went home while the rest just sat around chatting loudly and laughing. Like many Friday evenings we walked into the studio separately to check on MC Tino and Selekta Copain. At about 8:30, Mswati drove off in order not to be caught in the curfew fracas, I had dropped two of our colleagues and by the time I came back to the station he was gone, understandably because he lived quite far. Mswati and I rarely talked on weekends apart from when he was on air and I was commenting on a conversation or conveying a listener’s message. It was no wonder that it took me longer to learn that his phone hadn’t been on since that Friday night. It was also late Saturday that I learnt he had not showed up for the show. We spoke about it but left it at that hoping he would reach out whenever the phone came back on. 


The whole of Saturday went, different people kept trying to call but failed some friends were now worried and had been to one or two places where people were held when they breached curfew rules. We all assumed he was away possibly for that reason. Calls persisted on Sunday between friends, but it was after I saw Mswati’s wife at the radio station on Monday around midday that I got truly worried. 


When she last spoke to him he said he was heading to Royal and the reason they were here was to inquire of the time he left and if he’d gone with someone. Along the way they had passed by police stations but were either not satisfactorily helped or were outright told he was not there. I called a friend to check with his colleagues to see if he appeared in the police records but this didn’t bear fruit. On Monday evening three days since we last saw him and since he was inaccessible on phone we got the news that Mswati’s body had been found at King Faisal Hospital, the search had come to a devastating end.

Police report said he was in an accident with three other vehicles which started with someone abruptly swerving to his lane while trying to avoid hitting a motorbike. This was between Good Year and Grand Legacy. He died on the spot. 

Until now I have failed to understand why and how there was no mention of an accident of that magnitude that happened in the city and at a time many were rushing home trying to beat curfew. 

A beloved friend is gone and today even if all the questions in my head regarding the incident were answered it wouldn’t restore his life. Through Saturday, Sunday and Monday I wished he had been arrested for being in the wrong place at the wrong time because afterwards we would relieve those memories with a heap of laughter. 

I have never lost a friend so close and a life so precious. I see Mswati in his son Liam and I pray some day he will carry on and even surpass his father’s great legacy. Mswati cared, served and loved unconditionally. A few months ago someone wondered if it were possible to re-set the year 2020 because it has been tough, I shrugged it off, today I say oh yes sure as hell, can somebody return 2020 to the sender. 

To a fallen comrade, rest with angels. We WILL see you again Zachariah Mswati.                                                                                                                            

  Follow Jackie on Twitter @JackieLumbasi

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