By Rick James, Principal Consultant at INTRAC.
Chiku Malunga, our friend and colleague for more than 18 years died from kidney failure in Malawi over the weekend. He was just in his mid-40s and leaves a wife and two teenage girls.
In Chichewa they would aptly say, ‘We have no words’.
Chiku was a man of words. His stated goal in work was “to promote the African indigenous wisdom (in proverbs, folktales and indigenous concepts) as a tool for enhancing modern life”. A prolific writer, he shared his passion in his many books (http://www.cadeco.mw/books.html). He co-edited the NGO Management Handbook with Alan Fowler. With INTRAC he published papers that shaped our thinking around integrating culture in change: Learning Leadership Development from African Cultures and Using African Proverbs in Organisational Capacity Building.
But Chiku was more than just a writer. He consulted for more than 100 organisations in 26 countries across Africa and indeed the rest of the world. Through his leadership development work, people across the continent looked up to him as a mentor and example. A few years ago he spent some months with us at INTRAC in Oxford and people remember how easily his warm and humorous personality fitted in. The Communications Manager said “Chiku was one of my favourite consultants I have worked with in all my time at INTRAC.”
Chiku was a man of passion – he had a fire burning within him to see Africans love, respect and use their indigenous heritage to promote meaningful change. He was also a man of humility and deep Christian faith. I have on my desk a raw draft of a planned book entitled ‘The Spiritual Organisation’ in which he encourages the reader to look for spiritual solutions in dis-spirited organisations where morale is low. He writes: “Spirituality sustains our relationships and performance”.
But despite his PhD, his books, his international reputation, Chiku was first and foremost a family man. In his almost prophetic blog ‘Big questions of life’ Chiku encouraged people to focus on relationships above all else. After a near-death car accident in 2013 he wrote:
“I realized that I invest a lot of time, energy and resources where I can easily be replaced (there are many OD practitioners, writers, conference speakers) but I am the only father to my daughters, the only husband to my wife and the only Chiku to my mother. As a result I have reorganized my values and priorities. I have vowed that from now on I will invest most of my time where it really matters”.
If he was here today, I am sure he would ask us the question he asked himself: “If this is the end, what would I be most satisfied about my life and what would I regret most?” He would encourage us to stop, to take stock and to focus on the most important relationships in our lives. Let that relationship focus be his lasting legacy.