For decades, Manganya has been a theatrical powerhouse through radio and television series, Tikuferanji. However, the brains behind the comic character, Michael Usi, has now joined frontline politics and is the UTM Party’s running mate in the forthcoming May 21 Tripartite Elections. Our reporter Yvonnie Sundu (YS) caught up with Usi (MU) on his journey as Manganya and other issues.
S: Who is Manganya?
U: Manganya is a character that lives in his country, very much interested in what is happening around. These can be health, social, political or cultural issues, so long they are pertinent to the livelihood of an individual. Manganya then sees what ought to be done, if there is anything at all, to move the well-being of Malawians. He does it in his own way.
S: How long has Manganya been around?
U: Manganya has been around for over 24 years. He started in the days of Jack Phiri a.k.a Munyapa and Christopher Chiwalo. It was on MBC Radio’s Sewero la Sabata Ino programme when the cast was not enough as some actors had travelled.
These two suggested my name to the then producer of programme, Dr. Patrick Mphaka. Then, the two, in their involvement of the Midweek Magazine, could see and appreciate my contributions to the programme.
It was meant to be a once off thing, but they got feedback from the listeners about Paulo, the character I played.
So, I stayed on as part of the regular cast till the government was not happy with my Tikuferanji production.
S: That means while you were playing Manganya in Sewero la Sabata Ino, you were also the same character in Tikuferanji?
U: Yes. In fact, when I established myself on Sewero la Sabata Ino, I saw the relevance of Manganya in Adra [Adventist Development and Relief Agency] programmes which was reaching out to people to help them understand their problems and identify solutions.
We could not be everywhere, but we can use the media to reach out to as many people by producing series.
S: Tikuferanji started as a radio play then graduated to the screens. Cumulatively, how long has the play been around?
U: It’s safe to say over 20 years. It has now graduated from being an Adra to a national platform.
The idea has been that the organisation has been coming up with issues but now it has reached out to people to also contribute in terms of matter that are tackled in the series.
S: With Manganya in politics now, what happens to the programme?
U: I designed Tikuferanji is such a way that even if Manganya died, it will continue because it is issue-orientated.
What people will or may miss is the character. Right now, Tikuferanji is on Times Television and airs every Saturday, 19:30 hours.
Manganya is still around, but he is talking through other channels, that is politics.
The whole essence of having Tikuferanji is to ensure or promote good governance.
Where I am now, I am singing good governance, the only difference being, when I was in Tikuferanji, I was simply talking, trying to influence but now I am saying, what I have been preaching about is not just theoretical, it is practical.
So, to me it is a very big challenge to prove to Malawians that I was not just a rhetoric person; just talking yet cannot translate the talk into action. Manganya has not stopped acting.
S: Is there a boundary between Manganya and Micheal Usi or they are one and the same?
U: It depends on what one is looking at. Where there is no boundary, is where you capture the cry of the needy.
They are different when it comes to crafting the message to reach out to the people. When it is Manganya, he uses drama and music and when it’s Usi, he is going to use an interactive dialogue, in the lobby talking to diplomats and all. n