Farewell Papa Hez, nation robbed off a great sports resource

By eric odanga
Aug 27, 2021

Keeping records in Kenyan sports is a monumental task. At the moment, teams, players and associations are trying their best to gather all that they know and build an information base.

But, the records from the earlier years are still hazy and it will take a long time before these are compiled. As a young sports reporter at Nation Newspapers, l learned through the hard way that history was important and a backgrounder formed a strong base for any authentic story.

Therefore, I needed a resource and although the Nation Library had all the stories, it was cumbersome thumping through tons of old newspapers just to get a score! There was a ready resource, somebody who had a photographic memory! Hezekiah Wepukhulu.

Hez (as he was popularly known) or Papa Hez as we baptized him had a ready smile for everyone. Ask him any sports question especially those touching on his favourite club AFC Leopards and their rivals Gor Mahia, he will take a moment, lost deep in thoughts and surely enough, Hez will come with an answer!

This was a huge blessing for any reporter learning the trade. Not only did Hez have a photographic memory but he also kept lots of cuttings from stories he wrote long before any of us were born.

Every so often, he would promise to find an answer from one of his frayed notebooks, if he did not have it immediately and the next day, Hez would come back smiling with a very old cutting to back his point to our amusement. During the downtime, we often engaged Hez so we could learn from his rich history and often joked he should write a memoir. At the least, he could put together a scrapbook!

Whenever we went out for an assignment, Hez needed no pass to get into any stadium because everybody knew and respected him.

Instead of being asked for a pass, Hez was given a smile and a handshake to welcome him. What most people did not know about Hez was his passion for the rights of correspondents which could only be matched by his love for his cup of tea.

It was hard for Hez to back off whenever he thought correspondents (the unsung heroes of Kenyan journalism)were neglected and would walk into any Managing Editor/Director/CEO’s office and voice his feelings.

This is just but a scratch on the surface about an enigma in Kenyan sporting news who stringed for Leading newspapers but sadly his contributions were rarely recognized at the numerous journalists awards ceremony or by the government through the Ministry of Sports. Such a gentleman who had a smile for everybody.

The 89 year old ailed for years before finally losing the battle to Diabetes on Tuesday, August 27 at the Kenyatta National Hospital where he was admitted.