In memoriam. He always kept calm even when the newsroom mounted pressure. Francis Mutazindwa, 57, a veteran journalist succumbed to pneumonia on June 7. His former workmates and friends pay tribute, writes Carolyne B. Atangaza.
In a field of egotistical and brash personalities, veteran journalist Francis Mutazindwa stood out with his unassuming and dignified personality. He always looked like he had a secret which made people eager to listen attentively to whatever he had to say. His passing on June 7, cast a dark cloud over the media fraternity as they mourned the untimely passing of a beloved colleague.
Popularly known as Chief, Mutazindwa’s greatest achievement was modelling to the younger generation the values that every journalist should live by. Peers and colleagues testify to his almost dogmatic commitment to the journalistic tenets of truth and accuracy, independence, fairness and impartiality and accountability.
He was also an ace copy editor and was famous for turning writers’ shoddy attempts into stunning works of prose. This endowment and his inherent generous and nurturing nature made him a favourite of young ambitious journalists anxious to attain a bit of that flair themselves.
“If Chief edited your copy, you would be certain that it would create an impact. I carefully kept the articles he edited for me because I am proud to have my byline on them,” a former colleague says. Mutazindwa was also famous for his distinctive voice and articulate speech that made him a favourite emcee at functions and a pleasure to listen to on radio.
Photojournalist Henry Bongyereirwe, was one of Chief’s close friends and colleague having met at New Vision in 1992. “I joined as a freelance photographer and found Chief there. He kindly furnished me with the basics of journalism. He would come to my desk to check on my work and proofread my photo captions and give me more guidance for my assignments,” Bongyereirwe adds.
The duo joined Makerere University in 1996 when the university introduced evening programmes after Mutazindwa encouraged Bongyereirwe to enroll for a bachelor of Mass Communication while he did a Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences.
Their relationship became stronger and Bongyereirwe asked Mutazindwa to be his best man.
Roderick Mwesigye, remembers Mutazindwa as the consummate gentleman who believed there was good in everyone. Mweigye and Mutazindwa were friends for close to fifty years and shared many adventures. Mwesigye recalls a period after his friend had been bitten by the journalism bug. “For as far as I could remember, Mutazindwa wanted to become a journalist.
At one point he even stopped combing his hair and started dressing shabbily emulating the dress code of the journalists at that time. To complete his look, he always carried a pen and a notebook. He was one of the few lucky people who set out to do something and actually did,” says Mwesigye.
Loyal to a fault
Mwesigye also reveals Mutazindwa was loyal. He recounts an incident where the two were arrested while fleeing war-torn Mbarara in 1986.
“Although the war had been won, there were still pockets of resistance and the army was highly suspicious of everyone. That is how Mutazindwa, our other friend Benjamin Musinguzi and I ended up getting arrested in Ruti- Mbarara District. It did not help matters that on interrogation it was discovered that Musinguzi and I were from well-known UPC families. For two months, we stuck by each other and our bond became stronger. There were many chances for him to extricate himself out of the unfortunate situation but he did not,” Mwesigye recollects.
Mutazindwa was a loving husband and proud father. His older children Isabella and Isaac Mutazindwa brought him so much joy and he often proudly talked about them. After losing his wife Molly Mutazindwa, he married Betty Komujuni with whom he had two more children Esther and Joela Mutazindwa. Mwesigye was the best man at both his weddings.
His cousin and friend, Ankole Diocese Bishop, Sheldon Mwesigwa remembers Mutazindwa as humble and reserved.
“Even as a young boy, Mutazindwa was reserved and dignified. As he became older he became a champion of integrity and professionalism especially in journalism,” Bishop Mwesigwa recounts.
These qualities convinced the bishop to go against his rule of employing relatives and gave Mutazindwa a job at the diocese.
His widow, Komujuni described him as a person who loved God and his family.
The Ruwenzori Diocese Bishop Reuben Kisembo described Mutazindwa as a man of integrity. “He was honourable both as a person and as a journalist. Unlike the journalists we have today, Mutazindwa was uncompromised and should be an example to others,” Bishop Kisembo noted.
At a glance
Studied at Ibanda Boys Primary School, Mbarara High School, and Old Kampala SS. He attained a degree in Mass communication and Political Science from Makerere University.
He worked for many media organisations such as Vision Group, he was a lecturer of Political Science at Uganda Pentecostal University and by time of his death he was station manager of Revival Radio for South Ankole Diocese.
Additional information by A. Ashaba