The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Reporter
IT was a muted send-off, a goodbye as quiet as the wind. There were no trumpets blown, no big speeches from society’s important men and women to say goodbye to a broadcaster tipped to be one of his generation’s man leading lights.
The burial of Zororo Makamba, held just a day after his death, was as sudden as his passing. Such is life and death in the time of the Covid-19 (coronavirus). Life can be stolen in the blink of an eye and death can just be a sneeze away.
In the end, a generation lost its icon and it could not even bid a normal farewell to him. Funerals, like everything else, have changed in the time of the coronavirus.
In Italy, people with Covid-19 reportedly “face death alone”, with palliative care services stretched to the limit, morgues inundated, funeral services suspended, and many dead unburied and uncremated. In Iran trenches are being excavated for mass burial.
WHO guidelines dictate that victims of coronavirus must be buried within 24 hours and all over the world the epidemic has changed how people mourn their departed.
“When I was a boy, I remember my father telling me that in 1918 a lot of people used to die after attending funerals. It turns out that (Spanish) flu killed millions of people worldwide,” Mpilo Hospital Clinical Director Dr Solwayo Ngwenya told Sunday Life.
And so, when Zororo Makamba went to his final resting place in his family Blue Ridge Farm in Mazowe, his body was not greeted with rivers of tears from heartbroken fans and followers but a few streams of sorrow from close family members.
Those who admired Zororo could not be there in person to pay their last respects. Friends could not read tearful testimonies at his funeral wake. Instead, they congregated under Facebook posts, pouring out their pain in the comment sections of countless posts. Unable to sit under the shade of trees and share stories about his brilliance, they instead gathered under tweets, making up for the fact that they were not going to be able to shed tears anywhere near his casket. In 280 characters or less, they expressed their anguish.
Every post, from WhatsApp to Instagram, became a place for fans and admirers, acquaintances and colleagues to hold virtual hands in a manner that they cannot do any more. Social distancing has meant that the rituals of mourning, so essential in almost African tradition, have had to be discarded. The sorrow of funerals has migrated online. And just imagine, in Bulawayo, council has directed that only 30 people should attend a burial.
“I’m hoping you will see my tweet and call me and laugh at me for tweeting too much…. please text @ZororoMakamba” radio personality Misred tweeted in disbelief.
“Our last photo @ZororoMakamba. I’m torn somewhere between God’s Will always prevails & Human Error took you away too soon. You are hands down, among our generations Greatest. What a Genius. What a Friend. What a Brother. What a Son. What a Statesman. What an Angel. Ndarwadziwa, “Ruvheneko Parirenyatwa said.
Because of death’s doing, Zimbabwe will not get to hear or see these new acolytes of broadcast journalism in combination radio or TV. The devastation of the virus has also meant that there is no time to digest a death as heartbreaking as that of Zororo. The grieving have to wipe their tears before they dry on their cheeks and look forward. The virus is so deadly that people can barely trust the air they breath or any surface they touch. They have to leave the dead behind and focus on the future, even if the soil on the graves of the recently deceased is still undisturbed.
In life Zororo seemed to be a throwback to the heyday of the Zimbabwean broadcast era. His style and demeanor seemed to be from another era, an era where one was revered for their ability to communicate eloquently and elegantly.
There were no gimmicks and no theatrics. When the lights were on and the cameras started rolling, Zororo would also shine and sparkle.
However, it was not on traditional TV that he made his name but on the untamed jungle known as the internet.
“Who are the (Zimbabwean) filmmakers waiting around for? In today’s age one can shoot a pretty decent film using their smart phone,” he once told this reporter in an interview.
“The internet is the greatest democracy. We don’t have to wait for licenses, approvals, red tape. We can shoot a film and distribute it when you want, to whom. If we continue to wait on grants and support, people will tell our stories for us or they won’t get told at all. It’s imperative we start the movement and people will pay attention.”
It was perhaps fitting that when his name was called, at the painfully young age of 30, it was on the same internet that he was mourned the most. There was nowhere else to mourn him. Covid-19, the virus that extinguished his burning flame, made sure of that. So, no songs were sung to accompany one of Zimbabwe’s emerging great broadcast talents as he journeyed to the afterlife. Instead of wreaths on his grave, he was sent off with strings of emojis next to his twitter handle.