A tribute to Saeanna Chingamuka

A tribute to Saeanna Chingamuka


Date: January 15, 2017
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By Colleen Lowe Morna, GL CEO

Amai na Baba Saeanna; handzvadzi, hama ne shamwari: Saeanna yanga iri tsvarakadenga yai nganikira kwese kwese kwaienda!

Family and friends, there is a word in Shona – tsvarakadenga- that literally translated means “one who lights up the skies.” Saeanna was one such person.

I pride myself on being one of the first people to interview Saeanna for a job. Fresh from Rhodes University, she was rather junior for the post we had advertised as manager of the Gender and Media Diversity Centre (GMDC). But like the Abba song, when she walked into the room, she exuded that sense of “take a chance on me.” We recast the post as coordinator, later growing into manager, with mentorship support from myself and Jan Moolman of the Association of Progressive Communicators. It’s a decision I did not regret.

Saeanna’s youthful energy saw her grow the GMDC, profile it through the media, edit a quarterly journal, and grow into a fine editor.  Like many creative people she often swung from moments of extreme initiative and creativity to moments of dark depression. Through those highs and lows we developed a close relationship.

When I turned fifty in 2010, Saeanna, an ace organiser, co-organised my fiftieth birthday party with the then GL Services Manager, Mukayi Makaya. One of her responsibilities included finding a performer. My husband Kofi joked that he would give her a blank cheque to bring any musician she fancied – even Beyoncé! “That will be very expensive, Uncle Kofi!” she said. “Saeanna, YOLO,” he responded. “What does that mean?” she asked. “It means You Only Live Once,” he said.

As my family and I walked along the beach on South Africa’s Garden Route on 24 December after we received the devastating news of Saeanna passing away, we kept repeating this word – yolo. “I meant it in reference to you and I, not to Saeanna,” Kofi kept saying.

Parents are never supposed to bury their children. As a mother of two”tsvarakadenga” I cannot begin to imagine what Amai na Baba Saeanna are going through. But there are two things I have learned about loss.

One is that time heals, and that with time grief turns to celebration, of the time we had with those who left us. The other is that good people never die. They go to a better place. And a part of them lives on in every one of us.

Whenever we did planning at Gender Links, Saeanna would list her birthday (16 October) in her planner among “key dates”.  She taught me to love and celebrate life! My lasting memory of her is the spa outing a group of us organised for her 32nd birthday in 2012: four women in a Jacuzzi on a Saturday afternoon, sipping white wine, laughing about love and life!

At Gender Links, Saeanna lives on through the numerous young interns who passed through her loving hands, at least a dozen of whom went on to become permanent employees.

Tarisai Nyamweda, who now manages our media programme, is one of them.

As we gather here today to celebrate the life of Saeanna, GL is proud to unveil the Saeanna Chingamuka Gender and Media Internship Programme. We will keep her memory alive, and celebrate her every day, through committing to challenging gender stereotypes, and continuing to grow a new generation of young people who walk the talk of gender equality.

The candles will indeed burn out long before the legend ever will.

Dear friends, in the week that Donald Trump is sworn into office, we are reminded that gender equality is under threat. We invite all those who believe that gender justice and equality can and must be achieved to consider donating time and resources to the internship programme.

Amai na Baba Saeanna, tino kutendayi nekuuya kwamaita kuti tikwanise kubata ruoko nemi. We thank you for allowing us to “shake hands” with you, in the Shona tradition

Tinokutendayi nechipo chemakatipa, chipo che mwana wenyu Saeanna. Tinoda kukuudzai kuti mabasa aakatanga achaenda mberi. We thank you for the gift of Saeanna; her work will continue.

Mwari akupeyi runyararo ne kusimba. Tichasimibisana mumazuva anoteera. God give you peace and strength; we will strengthen each other in the days ahead.


Author: Colleen Lowe Morna, GL CEO

4 thoughts on “A tribute to Saeanna Chingamuka”

Glory Mushinge says:

So sorry to learn about this loss. I had on a couple of occasions communicated with her, when I used to contribute articles to Genderlinks and even though I never met her in person, she did seem like a nice person and so professional. Sending condolences from Zambia. RIP.

William says:

Thank you very much for a fitting tribute to Saeanna, a true tsvarakadenga – she was a pearl of a girl, with a twinkle in the eye that now shines in eternity! May she rest in peace.

Mucha Rose says:

Thanks Colleen for honouring my dearest friend and sister-Saeanna the late. She was a hard worker…a woman of the people and…a hero in her own way. She will be missed by many. Gone but not forgotten. Eternal peace be granted unto her soul.

Loveness says:

Fitting tribute to colleague and friend Saeanna. We worked together and dreamed together … you have passed on the button. Forever in our hearts. Zorora murugare!

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