The Interview: Tenthani plays down personal attacks for his muckraking

Malawi’s prominent journalists Ralphael Tenthani well known for his popular column, “The Muckraking” which provides political analysis on topical issues has been named for Nyasa Times ‘person of the year’ 2014. He has been the subject of controversy for his candid reporting on political issues. Editorial director for Nyasa Times, Thom Chiumia engaged Tenthani for an interview below.

Tenthani at Sanjika during meeting with President Mutharika: We were ambushed into receiving the cash

Tenthani at Sanjika during meeting with President Mutharika: We were ambushed into receiving the cash

Nyasa Times: You have been named together with the ‘fourth estate’ – the media in Malawi – as ‘Personality of the Year’ by Nyasa Times. What do you make of it?

Tenthani: Well, I am actually surprised, if not humbled, by the recognition. It’s encouraging to realise that the little things one does are recognised and appreciated.

Nyasa Times: Who is Raphael Tenthani? Many people would like to know you better, how do you describe yourself?

Tenthani: I am me so I don’t know how to describe myself. I would rather others do that job for me. Better still I would rather let my works do that for me.

I prefer being as private as possible about private issues although that becomes hard when you have a public name.

Nyasa Times: Your column ‘Muckraking on Sunday’ which appears in The Sunday Times and is reproduced by Nyasa Times among various online outlets has become popular and indeed you have your own critics, some go as far as attacking your person rather than the substance of your opinion. What’s your take on such feedback?

Tenthani: Well, my column is an irreverent look at current affairs. I look at issues as they are. As our daily life is driven by politics, politicians – often those in power (which, by the way, include opposition leaders) – are often in the cross-fire.

My writings will inevitably make a few people unhappy and uncomfortable.

As it happens in life there are several people who are ready to get angry on behalf of others. You see, those that attack my person – not my ideas – are supporters of the people I ‘muckrake’ about, as it were. While the leaders involved take it on the chin, sometimes calling me to disagree with my views or explain issues, their supporters just become angry.

You see what a bad footballer does? When he misses the ball he goes for the leg. That’s what the people who attack me personally do. In fact I am happy when I get attacked personally because I know when they do that that means the point has reached home.

Nyasa Times: Do you have a bone to chew with the current leadership and government?

Tenthani: Why should I? As a patriotic Malawian I would like my government to succeed. But governments can only succeed when leaders’ feet are constantly held to the fire, as it were. Praising leaders even when they are doing a shoddy job is not only unpatriotic but selfish as well.

In fact governments don’t need to be praised. We elect them to do a good job for us. And we pay office holders handsomely for that.

Nyasa Times: There was an issue of the K50,000 cash envelopes from Sanjika Palace from President Peter Mutharika. Why did you decide to accept it, only to return it later, while your colleague George Kasakula rejected it there and then?

Tenthani: You know, we were told by Information Minister Kondwani Nankhumwa that when going out we should collect a fodder which contained, according to him, the President vision for press freedom in Malawi. This was at the end of the interface. We were surprised to find that the fodder contained a blank notepad embossed with the President’s insignia, a pen with the president’s name and the white envelope which contained the K50,000.

We did not know what the money was for. Nobody explained. It was difficult to decide what to do for everyone was going home. Some of us thought giving back the money would be disrespectful. Besides, it would serve no purpose because the officer to which we would have given the money to would just personalise it or so we thought.

Some of us decided to give the money to charity because we did not deserve to be paid just for dining, wining and dancing with the President. Of course George did the most heroic thing by returning the envelope there and then.

By the way, it was not like somebody exposed the K50,000s to make us give it back or donate it to charitable causes. It was the media itself that laughed at the K50,000s.

Nyasa Times: What do you make of the nomination of Malawi media for a good watchdog role?

Tenthani: I think the media is doing a relatively good job and need to be encouraged with such citations.

Nyasa Times: Is there press freedom in Malawi?

Tenthani: I think journalists in Malawi are free to do their job without much hindrance. Of course excitable people would want to intimidate journalists but I believe these people are not sanctioned by authorities. Like I said above, some people tend to get angry on behalf of others. Anti-media laws are also still there but they are hardly used. For that I must commend authorities.

But, unfortunately, the government is the biggest employer of journalists but there is not much freedom for journalists who work for government news outlets. There is still that mentality that government-controlled media must be not only pro-government but also pro-the party in power as well. Which is dead wrong for government comprises the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary and, of course, us all. Now we cannot all belong to one party in a multiparty situation.

Nyasa Times: What are the challenges of the media in Malawi?

Tenthani: Because the economy is bad there is not much room to manoeuvre for journalists. Look, we only have two reliable print media houses and most electronic media houses are struggling.

So since the economy is bad media houses are struggling. Taxes and licence fees for both print and electric media are punitive. That is why small media houses fail to grow

Nyasa Times: Finally, where do you work exactly for your name is all over?

Tenthani: I am basically a freelance journalist. Of course I am a correspondent for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Pan African News Agency (PANA) and the Associated Press (AP), three of the best media houses in the world.

I am also contracted to write periodically for a number of South African, British, French and American newspapers and magazines.

 

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50 thoughts on “The Interview: Tenthani plays down personal attacks for his muckraking”

  1. kasparov says:

    No matter what negative stories people,write about, you, you are still the best. I would like to share a drink with you.

  2. BalakaGuy says:

    If i purchase sundaytimes newspaper,its because of your articles Ralph,you are amazing in your style of writing,keep it up.Dont write the way george k do.His articles are not only boring,but lacks substance.

  3. By far, Raph you’re the best of writers of opinionated articles on our land and I can bet on it, you shall still remain so for a considerable period ahead. Never mind about the hatred shown by some empty-headed bootlicking fellahs targetting the known private life voluptious appetitte for the hard drink. You’re my hero and remind me of the late lawyer friend of your’s, a blood brother to me, (name witheld) who had a private character like your’s yet with a counsel vibe surpassing many of his ever soberminded colleagues. Just make sure you don’t plunge your brain down to the irreversible demential status sooner than the acceptable senile demarcating line.

  4. golo says:

    Whatever people can say about Tenthani but for me he comes across as a very principled journalist who reports objectively without any fear. Bravo Tenthani! Keep it up!

  5. Titus Skoti says:

    Good stuff Raphael. I like your articles whether I agree with them or not. No need for people to be angry on behalf of someone. If people have a contrary opinion, they just need to put it in writing to counter argue and people will make their own assessment. I know truth hurts. Those that want to be pampered all the time are the ones that feel bad with whatever negative items you write about them but when you write good about them, they are the happiest. However in life you can’t have everything for yourself. Mistakes and mediocrity have to be exposed so that they are not repeated for the sake of our nation’s development. Keep the fire burning Ralph.

    The flow of your ideas in English reminds me of some past good writers whose articles I used to like like late George Matewere, late Chinyeke Tembo (Manchild) and late Hardy Nyirenda.

    On a lighter note, please reduce on liquor, it slows down everything!!!

    Bravo.

  6. Bolingo says:

    Cowards die many times before their deaths but is not the case with Raphael keep it up sir

  7. Gerald says:

    he is a very professional journalist.keep it up brother.

  8. Titele says:

    Tethani does not want to talk about private life? Well, a) tiuzeni za mahule pa sportman bar 2) Koma banja lilipo or you neglect your family chifukwa cha bibida? 3) kusasamba kuja kunali kukwimira person of the year?

    Anyways on technical ground u r the best journo in Malawi

  9. mumtukana mkachoka says:

    Koma pa Kamba masachet too much!musiye kuzikozeranso mukaledzera bwana RT!otherwise good journalist

  10. ndunde says:

    Message has reached home

  11. Mr. B says:

    Congratulations Mr. R. T, I love to read your articles because your English is very standard. I do learn a lot from your writings and keep it up.

  12. chatonda says:

    The guys writes good stuff but drinking beer too much. He is most of the times involved in accidents because of drinking. Stop drinking Mr Tenthani, you can go much further and make Malawi proud.

    1. alukosyo says:

      True he is a good writer koma mabotolo amamumupweteka. he looks like any other ordinary vendor pa town. hr should be a good example to upcoming writers

    2. thoko says:

      Msge has reached home kkkkkkkkkkkkk

  13. alukosyo says:

    kumasambako koma ma sachet achepenso

  14. gule says:

    very controversial opinions- largely pro-JB but still a very lucid writer!

  15. zomba boyz says:

    Gud

  16. Zatha says:

    Bravo Ralph. You stand out as one of the best journalists in Malawi. Keep it up. Happy new year

  17. Kamchitete says:

    Never i will get angry on behalf of apm

  18. Zondiwe says:

    Raphael Tenthani is an old friend and an analyst. Very professional.
    He does not waste time and money on self adornment. He is simple and very humble. I think Raphael is even shy.
    His genius is in the analysis and interpretation of events in our country.
    He is fearless and very professional.
    Keep it up Ralph and God bless you.

  19. Love him or hate him that’s my man Ralph T, Angoni….. he will not flinch no matter how much pressure you exert on him, he is just in his own u. class. bravo and happy mu ck racking in 2015. I we miss your column, its so forthright others will indeed get angry for their bosses!

    1. mlekeni says:

      Stupid. Thete is no Tenthani in Ngoni dictionery. Kuzipopa basi. Kuzolowela

  20. yale says:

    Ma Students a Journalism aku MiJ muzionatu

  21. Yuge says:

    Zoona Umayitha Raph

  22. Ghost of Kamuzu says:

    The journalist were obliged to report the bribe to ACB. And it now falls on the opposition parties to impeach corrupt,tribalist, nepotist and incompetent Peter Mutharika. Malawi needs a new leader fast if we are to survive as a nation.

  23. Chathanga says:

    Keep on muck………

  24. ujeni says:

    Man of the year without any argument there.

  25. sebeleza says:

    # 10 u get angry on behalf of others, we need to hold your feet to the fire. but even if tenthani don on nyau gear we will be able to read his writtings period. long live my scribe!!!!!!!!!

  26. Political Analyst says:

    Congratulations Raphael, keep it up and Long Live Malawi!Factually, Governments indeed come and go while the Malawi citizenry with Raphael remain in the background.Some governments come to serve,aleviate and dignify Malawians while others come simply to show off their personal achievements,exploit and empoverish the already poor Malawians without proving their mettle.Still others find themselves in government unexpectedly/by chance; without any well defined agenda/vision.Hence individuals like you Raphael and many more patriotic Malawians need to wake up these selfish political leaders lest our beautiful Malawi nation sinks into oblivion of poverty and anarchy.

  27. mbuya says:

    Shaaaaaaaa….THERE IS ONLY ONE JOURNALIST IN MALAWI…..GEORGE KUSAKULA….the only one not even Obama can bribe!

  28. kwangu says:

    Without nyasa times Malawi is doomed

  29. kwangu says:

    This guy’s writing is good, sad that the party he voted for lost

  30. Tambwali says:

    Kodi Tenthani ndameneyu ati?

  31. BigMan says:

    Tenthani is rather dull and emotional in his writing which is predictable. A waste of a journalist.

  32. golingo says:

    Bigman tenthani!!! Keep it up man!!!!*!

  33. GRM says:

    So this is Tenthani? Wawa ma freelance

  34. Bololo Wachitumbuka says:

    Watchenatu kkkkk

  35. Think Tank says:

    I like that: getting angry on behalf of others! Yes we do that without consulting the one who is being corrected on an issue.

  36. Bon Kapinda says:

    There goes my man, Ralph! You are a genius.

  37. PMK says:

    Some of us just don’t like to miss your muckracking on sunday and we try as much as possible to hunt for a k100 kwacha to buy some airtime to log onto the net to savour it.
    And if I had something to say to you for 2015, I would say keep writing and I will never hate either of the two [yourself or your muckraking]
    Happy New Year.

  38. The Truthful One from the West says:

    To be honest it is private media that is performing very well. The private media balance stories- that is they give the opposite side to be heard also. This is not the case with MBC.

  39. swiswiri mbewa says:

    We enjoy Muckraking column

  40. A MPINGO says:

    ALMIGHTY GOD IS GREAT AND WONDERFUL !!

  41. mwadzaangati says:

    Abwana some of us have learnt a lot frm your writing,indeed some get angry on behalf of their parties but such is life bravo

  42. de' Morgans says:

    Genius!!!!!!!!!!

  43. Jelbin mk says:

    Good work Tenthani keep it up no one should intimidate you for playing such an important role of checks and balances on behalf of the voiceless population.

  44. lilian says:

    Uwu ndi mtunda wina but also Thom Chiumia you have done well in promoting press freedom which has made Nyasa Tmes standout as thee best online media

  45. like says:

    Mwayankha bwinotu aralph but we don’t want you to be looked at as representative of the Malawi media because you don’t groom yourself

    1. Wiseman from the south says:

      Judge not the book by its cover but content
      Congrats Tenthani keep raking the muck

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