To the nation, he will be remembered as “the ACB Officer who was brutally murdered on his way from work”. But to close family and friends, Issa Njauju, will always remain “the gentle giant who wouldn’t hurt a fly”, because at almost 2m tall, he was exactly that; very soft spoken, calm and collected. He was a human fountain of peace, tranquillity and most importantly, witty and funny. He liked to crack a joke, often breaking into a hearty laugh that would send everyone around him rolling on the floor with laughter. That was Issa Njauju brutally murdered last week and his body buried by the thugs near presidential villas.
Issa’s parents hailed from the remote area of Mbalame Kwiputi Namwera area of Mangochi. His father settled at Mbavi in Lilongwe, where Issa grew up and started schooling. He was born around 1966. He joined the Nathenje Islamic Centre in 1982, concurrently doing his primary school education at Mwatibu Primary School.
In 1984, he joined the Blantyre Islamic Mission, continuing both his Islamic and secular education. In 1987, he was offered a scholarship to go to Sudan to pursue his secondary school education. He finished around 1991 and was selected to Aljazeera University in Sudan where he only studied for one year. The following year he was offered a scholarship to go to the International Islamic University of Malaysia (IIU), one of the most prestigious Universities in the Islamic world.
At IIU, he pursued a Bachelors in Economics, graduating in 1999. While at IIU, he became one of the most prolific and effective student leaders, rising to the position of President of the International Students Union.
I met Issa in 1998 when I went to study at Multimedia University in Malaysia. I had just arrived on campus and as fate would have it, Issa was at our University with students from his University as they had come to play football. He had heard from Ali Chioko, my brother since our Kamuzu Academy days, that I was arriving that very day. Ali introduced me to Issa, and from that moment on, I became his little brother. He invited me during my first term holiday to his University where I stayed with him for at least one week. As I was new to the country and was still home sick, Issa made sure that I was comfortable, assuring me at every opportunity that I will be fine and that he also was once like me. He said soon I would assimilate in the Malaysian society and would be enjoying the diverse and rich Malaysian food and culture.
Most importantly, Issa told me to work hard and concentrate on my education. While I was with him, he would cook nsima for me and teach me how to cook. He had a special recipe which I had never seen before, mixing both masamba and nyama in the same pot and cooking them together. He said I would need those skills especially when academic pressure had set in.
He had a Kancil, a small Malaysian made car. In this car, he would take me around Kuala Lumpur, showing me places. We were around 5 Malawian students at the time, and naturally, Issa was the leader and binding force among us.
Upon graduating in 1999, unlike other African students who stayed behind to search for jobs, Issa returned to Malawi at the first opportunity. I need not say that he left a vacuum among the remaining Malawian students. In Malawi, he joined the Munazzamat Dawat Islamia as an Accountant. He did not stay long as he joined Petroda and then Malawi College of Accountancy in Lilongwe as a lecturer, on the course becoming a Chartered Accountant under the ACCA.
From there, he joined the Local Government Finance Committee where he rose to the position of Assistant Director. Due to his conviction for good over evil, he left this position and joined the ACB, where he worked as the Director of Corporate Affairs and Administration until he met his cruel and sad death.
My last meeting with Issa was around August 2013 when he came to London for a few days. He was attending a seminar as an officer from the ACB. It was during the holy month of Ramadhan and in my capacity as Secretary General of the Malawi Muslim Community UK, together with our Chairman Mr Sherrif Kaunde, we invited him to our Eid-ul-Fitr celebration. Despite his very tight schedule, Issa obliged and he graced the function as our Guest of Honour, where he spoke on the purpose of Unity as a community. Before this, I would usually meet him in Malawi almost every holiday I spent there. Our meeting point was usually the mosque at Area 9 and to say that he was a devout muslim is an understatement.
Apart from this, we communicated frequently on social media, where he was an avid supporter of Manchester United, perhaps the only time I saw him arguing with someone, though be it in a subtle way.
When on Friday 3rd July I received a text from Sherrif Kaunde informing me that Issa had been missing, I prayed I would wake up on Saturday to hear that he had been found alive in his village in Mangochi, that the “missing” was some technical problem on telecommunication. But alas, Saturday 4th turned out to be a nightmare, and the rest is history.
It would be correct to say that Issa died in the line of duty. He leaves behind an elderly mother, a wife and an 11 year old daughter. Strangely, a common friend of ours this year asked him why he does such a dangerous job at the ACB, and his answer was that this was his last year as he was venturing into farming. He had acquired a farm in Salima and was cultivating groundnuts. He had also booked for Hajj, the muslim pilgrimage to Makkah for him and his family. That was Issa Njauju, a fallen compassionate Malawian who had his life abruptly taken away from him by some dark cruel forces amidst our society.
I hope and pray that the perpetrators will be caught and brought to justice. But knowing Issa, he would have advised us not to mourn him excessively, but make prayers for him and ourselves. Indeed in these trying times, we turn to the holy Quran, Surat Albaqarah verses 155-157:
“And we will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to the patient, who when disaster strikes them, say, “Indeed we belong to Allah and to him we will return”, Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are the rightly guided”.
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