Dennis Liwewe: A Full Zambian Life


We have lost a legend. A legend among us has left. A true Zambian icon has passed away. A great man has gone ahead of us. He was 78. He has gone to rest in eternal peace. For these three days, we have mourned together as one nation and we will continue to do so. The man who helped bring us together through the passion he had for Zambia and for football has united us, once again, as one people in mourning him. It is such a huge loss for our country. Our generation will dearly miss one of the greatest sons of this country. What made Dennis Liwewe great is not so much about his voice, but his passion. As a child growing up in the late eighties and early nineties, my mind is forever etched with his passion that blurted each time the Zambia national team played football. That passion was infectious. That passion expanded the imagination of young and old alike.

I grew up at a time when we had no Internet and certainly, no twitter. Televisions were also difficult to come by. The only reliable media we had, at home, was my father’s yellow ITT radio held together by a blend of tired wires. On that radio, we found a way to follow the Zambian national team each time they played at Independence Stadium. Dennis Liwewe brought those matches alive to my young ears. With him on the radio, I felt like I was right there in the stadium watching the game with him. That is perhaps one of the things by which I will remember him.

A legend, like Dennis Liwewe, lives on in the memories of those people he touched while on earth. He lives on through those who knew him at a more personal and intimate level. In writing this today, I should honour the way those close to him are remembering him. I should honour the way his family are remembering him. However, in addition to the fact that Dennis Liwewe was a family man: a father, an uncle and a grandfather, he was a legend too. Those of us who never even got to meet him personally still do have our own memories and unique ways in which we experienced his legend. And it is these varied and diverse memories that make the man a true Zambian legend. Mr. Liwewe will live on through the memories of those people who never met him, but nevertheless got impacted by the passion of his life.

From Dennis Liwewe’s life we learn several things. First, we learn that regardless of one’s station in life, passion is an important element in living. It has been mentioned above that Mr. Liwewe was passionate. And he lived his passion. His passion was infectious. We saw it. We felt it. We heard it. He made us to live his passion. He made us to experience his passion. Building this nation, calls for a people that are more passionate for their country. Additionally, passion means that one puts the interests of the nation ahead of anything else. Nothing demonstrates passion more clearly than what someone does with his or her time. For Liwewe, it was time well spent doing something he had always loved.

Second, Mr. Liwewe’s life teaches us that one can make a huge contribution to a cause without necessarily being the central player in that cause. Liwewe loved football but he was not a great football player himself. And neither did he need to be. He never played for the national team. Yet, he still inspired many in the national team to play their best. He was a great source of pride and inspiration. Over his career as a commentator, he was the mentor of several young players. He was not that kind of mentor who went to the dressing rooms with the players. He was not their coach. His presence and his passion were enough to inspire greatness in the young players. Zambia is better and greater due to the inspiration so many of us got from the life of Dennis Liwewe. This nation will do better if it continues to draw inspiration from the life and times of Liwewe.

Third, Mr. Liwewe helps us to realize that life is not just about politics. At a time when our country has become too politicised, it is refreshing to note that someone could be a symbol of unity across party political lines. I do not know about others, but speaking for myself, I never heard Liwewe take a partisan political stance on any subject. We can learn from Dennis Liwewe that we can all be passionate about our country without necessarily throwing ourselves into the frenzy of political divisiveness. There is a life without politics, just as there is still life after politics. Perhaps, the cadres who are busy fighting each other and killing each other could learn from the life of Liwewe that we are, in fact, just one people in a country that is in love with its football.

Pafwa abantu, pashala bantu is a saying that expresses the important duty that each departed person leaves for others to do. Dennis Liwewe did his part and played his role. He lived passionately among us. He showed us the way. Nevertheless, after he passes on, it now falls upon those still living to carry on with his good work. This good work does not necessarily mean we all must become radio commentators, but rather that we should do our best to be that true expression of humanity. We should embrace others as well as embrace the unique gift endowed by our Creator. When all is said and done, it is that which is done for the good of others that will truly matter.

May Dennis Liwewe’s soul rest in eternal peace.

Elias Munshya, LLB (Hons), MA., M.Div.