“Reserve me a page for my land feature. The coverage so far is simply vomit of what we are all watching and hearing on TV and radio. It lacks in-depth analysis of the issues being debated.”
This text, from New Era Associate Editor Desie Heita to Managing Editor Toivo Ndjebela on Tuesday this week, sums up the character of the former, whose great loss rocked the nation yesterday.
His in-depth story, titled “Rhetoric aside, here’s the actual debate at land conference”, appeared in Wednesday’s edition of
New Era. And, as fate would have it, the story was to be his last ever for the newspaper.
Without a shadow of doubt, Namibian journalism is poorer without him.
His clarity and objectivity in work is why he bowed out of this game without any troubles, legal or otherwise, emanating from his work.
In that sense, it can be stated with ease and without fear of contradiction that Heita contributed to journalism of truth and fairness. He never became the news himself, not while he was alive.
He subscribed to the ideals of journalism as the Fourth Estate, writing on matters that kept alive the principles of democracy, transparency and good governance.
He understood perfectly that the true reward of journalism was not measured through the amount of salary earned, but in priceless manifestations such as saving a life by informing or raising awareness, or exposing a bad economic policy that threatened the livelihood of thousands of families.
Heita laughed one minute and shouted the next. And no, he did not suffer from bipolar disorder. He simply understood that the newsroom is a place where those in charge must be firm, but fair too.
When he wanted work done, he never pulled his punches. To new journalists getting to know him, he was this hard-to-please enigma, and many would run into the toilet to shed a tear in because Heita was a professional to a degree that would put all his colleagues to shame.
He would re-write a subordinate’s story and remove their byline, a common practice in the trade but which is hated with passion by armchair journalists.
In the end, such journalists always later came to a realisation that Heita is a devotee to the ‘carrot and stick’ approach. With him, one must expect a combination of reward and punishment to induce good behaviour.
This was often misconstrued to mean he had poor interpersonal skills but journalism, by its very nature, is a trade where those in leadership must put their foot firmly on the ground to get things done – a properly.
He understood the might of the pen – its power to make or break people, institutions and nations. He thus always knew if the mighty pen of journalism is handled recklessly, it could destroy lives of anything in its way.
The breed of Heita’s kind of journalists is a cut above. This, in a sense that he blended, hand-in-glove, personal attributes with professional ones to wholly make up what he was known for – a nice guy who took both life at office and work seriously.
His death is painful to both us as his colleagues, his friends and – most importantly – his family.
But we refuse to accept that Heita is dead. He cannot be dead when we surely can still trace his legacy and footprints in the corridors of our office, his work online and his strategic documents in our files.
The lessons he imparted to his peers, seniors and subordinates are firmly stuck in our psyche and would continue to be unleashed as a war-chest to confront our daily challenges, trials and tribulations. With that impact alive and well in our midst, Heita is surely not dead!