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A tribute to an exceptional scribe media fraternity will dearly miss

Friday July 16 2021
Fraternity pic
By Abdi Sultani

Attilio Tagalile has died. Yes, our senior media colleague’s heart stopped beating minutes to midnight of Thursday, July 8, aged 70.

News of Attilio’s death was hugely shocking within the media fraternity mostly because there hasn’t been prior information that he was unwell.

I for one had called him early on Saturday, July 3—just to say hi. The two of us had the habit of calling each other almost daily, at times for no reason—trust retirees!

Now when I called Attilio at midmorning, July 3 for our usual hellos, he said he was at Hindu Mandal Hospital over a “small matter” that shouldn’t worry anyone, for he wasn’t worried himself. “They’re just giving me bed rest. They might discharge me even today,” he reassured me. Hardly did I know that this would be the last time I would hear my colleague’s confident voice.

When his two phone numbers subsequently went dead on me for a whole three days, I was naturally alarmed. On Wednesday, July 7, I alerted a consultancy associate of his, Prof Chris Maina Peter, who happened know Attilio’s residential address.

He went there and learnt that our friend had been referred to Cardinal Rugambwa Hospital.

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Prof Chris (God bless him) traced Attilio there, and on Thursday at around 8pm, he called me to say he met our friend the previous day and they warmly chatted at his hospital room. “And I talked to his wife this afternoon…she says the guy is fine...he’s likely to be discharged by the weekend,” he said.

But alas, that was not to be! Our friend breathed his last just some hours later.

One is tempted to query: how come Attilio died just like that?

But then, that’s death; it snuffs the life out you at its own whim irrespective of your prevailing physical status. It’s no wonder word masters coined a phrase for it: the cruel hand of death.

The veteran scribe died less than a month ahead of his 71st birthday (born August 4, 1950), but so what? Attilio was a man full of energy, the only major concern with him being that of weak eyesight. “Poor eyesight isn’t known to have killed anyone,” I would tease him whenever he lamented.

Otherwise, Attilio, from the time I knew him in the late 90s when he was sports correspondent for Reginald Mengi’s Daily Mail for which I was a subeditor, to our time together in 2002 to mid-2004 at the Daily News onward to The Citizen, Attilio has been the proverbial picture of good health.

He loved exercising (held yellow belt in karate and orange belt in judo), was careful with what he ate (he had been off red meat for long by the time we met for lunch at my neighbourhood eatery sometime last month) and neither smoked nor drank.

I know no one in the local media who had the energy and passion for writing that equaled Attilio’s. Our no-nonsense editorial chief at the Daily News, Mkumbwa Ally, used to urge the relaxed ones amongst our team: “Guys, develop a love for writing like Attilio…this man doesn’t just write; Attilio enjoys writing!”

Mark you, Mkumbwa—reputedly one of the strictest (some would harshest) editors that ever worked for Tanzania Standard Newspapers Ltd (TSN)— was normally very economical with compliments.

Our fallen colleague didn’t busy himself with media work only; he authored books too. He leaves behind two published novels, Endless Toil (2006) and Damned Traitors (2021), plus a non-fiction book titled The Lost Sanctity, inspired by his two-year work (2016-18) with the WWF as Campaign Manager against poaching and industrial developments in the Selous World Heritage Site.

He had lately been putting final touches on a book on the history of Tanzania’s oldest media house, the TSN. He hinted to me it’s a massive, well researched book, a potential must-read.

It’s my prayer that it will be possible for some editors and publishers to ensure this particular work and other unpublished ones don’t simply rot in the confines of his family study shelves.

My heart goes to his wife Mary, children Hans, Yvonne and Doreen, and grandson Noah.

Rest in peace, brother Attilio Anselm Tagalile.