Dear Belinda...

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Dear Belinda,

Today makes it two years since your shocking exit from this plane. September 3, 2016. It was a Saturday... I was up in the morning lazing on the bed and on WhatsApp chatting up my friend from Botswana, Ms. Diwanga - as I like to call her. After sometime, we were done and I thought to check up what's on Facebook, before getting off social media. It was Salome Chari's status that caught my attention. She wanted you to please get in touch if you could read this - or something like that. Instinctively, I went to your page. I went back on WhatsApp and beeped Eniel and Lizzie. i also beeped Sam Nyaude... Eniel responded first. It was true...

I was in Zimbabwe last year 2017, and I hoped to visit your tomb. Unfortunately, circumstances and tight scheduling did not allow... I am not in for Sanganai this year. There's really nothing to see at your tomb. I'm just a sentimental type - and I somehow find it hard to let go. The Word of God is true - absence in the body, presence with the Lord. Still miss you, and won't forget you, Belinda...

*****

Mel: Yeah. I miss y'all too. We all became family for two weeks.

Me: We're family... It was time to find each other. That's why we met.

(WhatsApp conversation between Mel and I weeks after our Sanganai/Hlanganani 2016, Zimbabwe experience)

Today is Monday September 5, 2016... It's two days now since the news broke on social media. Somehow, I hope it was some kind of joke - but who would devise such wickedness as sport? Still, I hoped someone would come out and say, "Hey guys, we're sorry. It was a little joke. We didn't know you guys...bla, bla, bla..."

Belinda and Kuda sorting out our rooms at with staff of Rainbow Towers, Harare while Michael looks on... June 7, 2016. 03:17.

Sadly, it's not a joke. But it's wicked and painful... I can't even start to describe the kind of human being you were. I remember our last day in Zimbabwe. That morning, you came to see Michael and I at the Holiday Inn, Harare. I didn't expect to see you again after you handed us over to Lizzie in Bulawayo. I thought, you should have gone on break after coordinating such a crazy tour group like we had with different nationalities and temperaments. But you showed up to see us. I was reluctant to hug you. I like being emotionless, and I suspected I would cling on to you longer than necessary. I had enjoyed my stay in Zimbabwe, every minute of every day.

On a sunset cruise on Lake Kariba, Belinda with her bestie Khomotso and Jean... June 9, 2016. 17:29...

With Sherry Sibanda, leading a team away to the elephant rehabilitation centre. June 11, 2016. 08:33...

Belinda discussing with Michael before leaving Bulawayo with the rest of the team for Gweru...

Live in Bulawayo. After a visit to the museum went on site inspection of some facilities. June 15, 2016. 11:40...

With Lizzie (Gweru ZTA) at Motsamai Guest Lodge, Bulawayo... 11:42...

I remember when we first arrived in Harare. It was a long flight from Lagos, via Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We touched down early morning on June 7; it was well past 02:30am. You were waiting to receive us, you and Kuda and a driver. As soon as we got past immigration, you called my name, "David." It was the first time we were meeting in flesh and blood, but we had conversed via email and WhatsApp.

With Richard Adika and Michael... June 15, 2016. 12:25...

From the airport, we went to the Rainbow Towers and you and Kuda checked us in and promised to see us later in the day... We saw later in the evening at the meeting for everyone in the tour group. June 8, and you led the group out on a tour of your beloved country. From Harare to Kariba, via Chinhoyi. Kariba to Vic Falls, to Hwange to Bulawayo.

Lake Kariba, sunset cruise. Belinda with Jean, Khomotso, Richard, Sharmaine, Ken Banda, Ingrid and I... June 9, 2016. 17:41.

Sanganai/Hlanganani 2016 Day 1. Lunch break with Lisa. June 16, 2016. 13:05.

We had memorable moments. I tried to catch you off guard with the camera, but I never succeeded much. You were pretty much aware of your environment, a testament to your diligence and focus. Yet death sneaked in on you and plucked you out like a tender little flower, threw you on the ground without care or remorse, stomped on you, dealing you a fate without recourse.

On our way to Chinhoyi Caves... June 8, 2016. 11.30. 

I was sure we would see again at Sanganai/Hlanganani 2017. I was so sure... But now the inevitable has occurred. I never got to send you all your pictures... You asked me to, and I said I would. I promised you...

One of those moments I caught you off guard. But your bestie Khomotso was watching... Lake Kariba sunrise cruise and breakfast. June 9, 2016. 08:05.

Kariba Airport, on our way to Bumi Hills. Belinda with Lisa, Mel, Kuda, Ken and Daisy (Kariba ZTA). June 9, 2016. 11:13.

It was only a short time, yet it felt like we'd known each other forever. When the news broke, the only thing I could write on your wall was "Why?" No one expected you to depart so soon. We were blindsided... Sometimes I want to hold myself guilty for not being sensitive, perhaps God wanted me to stand in the gap and forestall the evil satan had planned for that September morning. Perhaps the Spirit of God called on me, but I was too deep in slumber to realise such an important matter was at hand. So I slept when I ought to be praying...

Lake Kariba sunrise cruise... With Lydia. June 9, 08.57. 

Off on the Kariba sunset cruise with your bestie Khomotso... June 9, 2016. 16:50. 

I'm sorry, Belinda. I wish I knew... It's difficult to step past the pain. I pray the Lord comfort your parents, your siblings, your precious daughter Chloe, your wonderful colleagues at the ZTA and all your friends and loved ones.

Farewell, my friend Belinda... 

Yours,

David...

*****

This piece was first published on LinkedIn on September 5, 2016. 

Niyi David

I travel around Africa capturing colourful images and beautiful memories.

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