Remembering Zedi Nyirenda and Oliver Mkandawire
Over the last few months, Covid cases in Malawi have been rapidly increasing. Many lives have been lost throughout the country and tragically this includes two of Temwa Malawi’s board members Dr Zedi Nyirenda and Dr Oliver Mkandawire.
Zedi, pictured below on the left, and Oliver, on the right, had a vision for the future which was echoed by communities throughout Nkhata Bay North and across Malawi, and at Temwa we’re working hard to ensure their dream lives on. We hope that through the words of some of those that worked with them and were closest to them, you can learn from, and remember two great people that Malawi has lost.
From Kondwani Banthu – Programs Director
On Dr. Zedi Nyirenda
What a humble man he was. He was responsible for programmes in the Temwa Malawi Board and I was always kept on my toes by Dr Zedi. He always looked at how the Temwa programmes I was managing were impacting on the lives of people in Nkhata bay North. When our relationship with Senior Chief M’bwana was not that OK, Dr Zedi played a vital role in engaging the Chief to appreciate the role Temwa is playing in the area. The Chief became very supportive of Temwa’s work after that.
The last time I was in Lilongwe on Temwa’s fundraising work I was hosted at his house for three nights just to make sure that Temwa saves money on accommodation and food. As a very busy man, during those days he would come very late in the night but he would still wake me up so we would catch up on Temwa’s work. He was a very dedicated man to learn from. His last words to me were during a Temwa Malawi’s 66th Board meeting, where after I made a progress report he commented as said ‘well done Kondwani on your presentation, but remember a good report must accompany great pictures of the work you have done’. Surely Temwa is already missing his expertise.
On Mr Oliver Yewo Mkandawire
He was very new in Temwa as a Board member, but his presence during his first and last board meeting was impressive. The way he articulated education and other programmes issues showed he had a lot to offer. Apart from working as a Secondary school teacher for over 25 years he also worked with different boards in the CCAP Synod of Livingstonia and other institutions. He was a people’s man. Very humble, jovial, welcoming and with greatest interest in educating rural children. The time I was being informed about his demise I was in my village Bowe in Rumphi near Vwaza game reserve. When I shared the news to my family relations surprisingly one of my widowed Cousin started crying. She said Mr Oliver Mkandawire was the one paying for her 4th born daughter’s secondary school fees despite the fact that he was not related to her. This showed how passionate he was about educating rural children.
During the 66th Board meeting he said ‘Kondwani anytime you will need the support from Board members let me know I am available’. Two weeks before his death we met at Rumphi District, he reminded me about the promise he made and I had informed him that he should accompany us during handover of the Girls Hostel Temwa which was constructed in Usisya to community members. Lastly, I knew Mr Oliver Mkandawire, who was the owner of Yewo Grocery at Rumphi District, in 1985 when I had fallen from a tree and sustained injuries at my back. My dad took me to the hospital and then to Yewo Grocery where he bought me my first Coca-Cola bottle. I struggled to finish it. Mr Oliver Mkandawire (Yewo) told me ‘when you go back to the village be a good boy and work hard in school’. During Temwa’s 66th Board meeting I told him the story and he remembered my father and his brothers. We laughed about it. There is a lot I can write about this great man. He remains a great man not only to me but many Malawians both within and abroad. Rest well, great man of Nkhamanga Kingdom.
From Dr CAPS Msukwa – Temwa Malawi’s Chair of Trustees
On Dr Zedi Nyirenda
The departure of Dr Zedi Nyirenda is a great loss to Temwa and Malawi as a whole. Dr Zedi was a first-class professional who always offered the best in what he said and did. He revolutionised Temwa Malawi through his engineering culture of looking at things very critically and innovating constructive solutions. He always inspired all of us to individually offer the best and ensured that Temwa programmes make a difference in the lives of the people we serve. Being one of them, Zedi was a true ambassador of the Nkhata Bay North people.
In Malawi, Zedi has left a mark through the high-quality Lilongwe – Kasiya – Santhe – Chinkhoma road which he designed and constructed as well as the new Malingunde dam to supply water to Lilongwe City which he was working on until his death. What a great professional Malawi lost! Muzimu wake ughuse mu mutende! (meaning May His Soul Rest in Peace).
On Oliver Chituzu Yewo Mkandawire
I first met Oliver the first date I started work, he told me “Welcome to the world! You are now a grown-up man; you have to show good results in all that you do”. I have known him as a successful veteran educationist who retired after teaching in many secondary schools as well as at Livingstonia University. When Oliver joined the Temwa Malawi Board on 10th September 2020, I knew our team was complete with seven competent professionals. During the only board meeting he attended Oliver pledged to ensure that Temwa contributes to improved standards of education in Nkhata Bay North and the entire Northern Region of Malawi. Unfortunately, Temwa Malawi did not reap these results from him. May His Soul Rest in Peace.
From Jo – Temwa’s Co-founder and Managing Director
The team at Temwa were shocked and deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Dr Zedi Nyirenda and Dr Oliver Mkandawire, both were highly respected professionals and their expertise on the Temwa Malawi Board was valued and appreciated. I did not have the pleasure of meeting Dr Mkandawire, although the Temwa Malawi Board Chair Dr Msukwa was so excited to have him join the board, it is a great loss that we were not able to utilise his expertise.
Dr Zedi Nyirenda and his family I knew well, when I visited Malawi in recent years Zedi and family would host me, Zedi would collect me and return me to the airport, a service he really didn’t need to do, especially as he such a busy person, I really appreciated his time, generosity and the hospitality of his family. Zedi had genuine integrity, he was a true professional, as well as a true gentleman. His willingness and enthusiasm to help people was inspiring, often going out of his way to help friends & family, he was brilliant and humble , which is a lovely combination of characteristics. Zedi was more than just a Board Member, he became a great friend to many of us in Temwa, we all feel his loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Zedi and Oliver, may their souls rest in peace.
From Richard Potter – Temwa UK’s Chair of Trustees
It was with great sadness that we heard the news of the passing of both Zedi and Oliver, two valued colleagues and dear friends as Trustees on Temwa’s Malawi Board. Zedi’s tireless support of the charity and its close connection with the community was remarkable throughout his time as a Trustee and particularly so as the COVID pandemic took hold. His intelligence was matched only by his compassion for others and we feel privileged to have worked with him. Oliver, a recent appointment as a Malawi Trustee, had looked forward to providing his significant experience and will be sorely missed. As Temwa UK Trustees, we would like to express our deepest sympathy and condolences to both families at this difficult time.
Zedi Nyirenda inspecting the state of the road in Usisya (left) and with his wife Jo in Mulanje.
From Zedi Nyirenda’s Brother-in-Law
Dr Zedi Nyirenda was a selfless, gentle, and beautiful man, rightly loved and trusted by everyone who met him. Devoted husband, Father, brother, uncle, and incomparably loyal friend to the many who mourn him in Malawi, Zambia, and the UK.
Gaining a PhD from Oxford University – a DPhil – was the least of Zedi’s achievements as a human being. As a civil engineer he built dams, bridges, tunnels, pipelines, and roads, altered the course of rivers with his bare hands, brought water to villages, worked the soil, and planted crops. He would travel hundreds of miles to help anyone in need, day or night. He understood the earth, the foundation of everything, and worked harder for other people than any man I know. He was working right up until he was taken from us, striving to build the infrastructure of his community, trying to hold back a tide – a statement of his faith. He would plunge his hands into the soil and build. And keep building, no matter what.
When the Millennium Bridge was built over the Thames, Zedi was responsible for the one part of it that didn’t wobble: its foundations. That was typical of a man who stood firm and did what was right and good, even when others faltered. So, when you next walk over that bridge in London, remember that its foundation is deep, black, African, and strong, and has held millions safely above the water. The original Eurostar terminal at Waterloo was another landmark he helped to create; it is built on his foundations. So, he made his mark in the heart of the capital – not bad for a boy from a rural village in Malawi.
A legacy that lives on…
It is vital that Temwa continues its work in Nkhata Bay North in order to help communities to protect themselves from COVID-19. To support this work please consider making a donation in their memory or contacting us at [email protected] to find out more.
So far, your support to Temwa has meant that Zedi, Oliver, and the rest of the team has been able to make remarkable achievements in the last year. You can read more about these achievements in our 2020 Annual Impact Report here.
Dr Zedi Nyirenda and Dr Oliver Mkandawire’s contributions to society will be a legacy that lives on and we will continue the work of Temwa in Malawi in their honour.