On Tuesday July 13, 2021, the journalism fraternity and the nation at large were plunged into mourning after one of the Zimbabwe’s finest journalists, Sandra Nyaira, died.
Sandra succumbed to Covid-19 related complications in Harare.
Aged 46, Sandra was an award-winning journalist whose career spanned print and broadcast journalism, as well as international relations and developmental communications.
Sandra’s untimely death has been a brutal reminder of the reality that “we all don’t know the day the Lord calls us”.
It is more painful that she departed without saying goodbye to her friends and workmates across the globe that she loved and had so much respect for.
Sandra was indefatigable.
She was reputed for defying all odds and for barging through virtual brick walls in search of a better life, mostly for her family and others.
Very charitable, Sandra was above all an embodiment of innocence and honesty.
The Glen Norah-born and bred journo was arguably the first and only journalism student to land a national award, when she achieved the feat as a Harare Polytechnic Mass Communication student on attachment with the Zimbabwe Inter-Africa News Agency, popularly known by its acronym, Ziana, in 1994. She would join Ziana in 1995 and become its Manicaland Bureau Chief before joining the Daily News in 1999, where she continued to tell it as it is, without fear, without favour.
At the Daily News she would become Zimbabwe’s youngest and first ever female political editor at the age of 27 in 2002.
Nyaira won the “Courage in Journalism” award from the International Women Media Foundation for her sterling work. She will always be remembered for her affable, humble, caring and warm personality that belied the bold, brave and ethical journalist who mentored many cub journalists trying to find their feet in the profession.
She held a post-graduate qualification in international journalism from City University in London.
Nyaira’s works were featured in the British Journalism Review, The Guardian and London Times.
She was a visiting fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government before later joining Voice of America in Washington DC as English Editor for 12 years.
At the time of her death she had been a public information officer with the United Nations based at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa since 2015.
Three weeks ago in Greendale, Harare, Sandra joined seven of her colleagues from the Harare Polytechnic Mass Communication class of 1995 for a get-together of good-natured banter, laughter and reconnecting where they reminisced on their college days and the different career paths they took after graduating.
At the shindig, she was the centre of discussion, being probed about her love life.
Sandra, who was single, laughed this off and was never offended even when told to review her clothing especially with a view to donning garments that show off part of her legs. It was clear where Sandra’s standards had emanated from.
Her life was an open book, allowing people to pry into her inner soul and she remained unflustered.
Over the years, we have easily inquired about Sandra’s romantic suitors and each time she would say, “God is arranging the ideal one for me.”
Tragically this would be the last time her colleagues from the Class of 1995 would meet and socialise with her.
She has now joined other members of that class who were prematurely called home among them Stewart Chabwinja, Wilfred Durango, Blazio Katsande, Nomathemba Mpande, Edwin Dube, Edson Ramonkga and one Alois.
Sandra enrolled for journalism training at the Harare Polytechnic in 1993, becoming one of the younger ones in that class of about 60.
Remarkably, in those days, Sandra addressed her male colleagues as “Sir”, a barometer of her respect for others. There was a background to it, however.
The late Zimbabwe Independent journalist, Chabwinja, had taught Sandra in secondary school and Sandra could not dispense with the nature of the relationship they had a few years earlier.
We laughed it off, but Sandra took this in her stride, opting to maintain her values and standards acquired during her upbringing.
Then she was lanky in stature, fun-loving. We recall Sandra enjoyed Rhumba and danced well.
She would never hurt a fly and no wonder Sandra was loved across the political divide of the ruling Zanu PF party and the opposition MDC.
Sandra was now an international civil servant and often shared feedback based on inside knowledge about how the West undermines Africa.
This miffed Sandra and increasingly she believed in the renaissance of African self-help rather than looking to the West. Sadly, she died before we could build on her new status as a UN worker to help Zimbabweans.
Sandra exits this world at a time the journalism profession needs her craft and experience to deal with the multiplicity of challenges confronting the Fourth Estate, which is going through seismic disruptions being fuelled by the Covid-19 pandemic for better or worse.
At 46, Sandra still had a lot to offer to the profession and her country.
While the heavens are celebrating her departure from this wretched earth, Zimbabwe and the journalism profession, in particular, are poorer without the master of the pen whose contribution reverberated beyond the country’s borders. Like a candle in the wind, Sandra’s flame has been blown out when we least expected it.
This obituary was compiled by the Harare Polytechnic Mass Communication Class of 1995. The Sunday Mail