MBC-TV fanatics had to put up with five minutes of unforeseen content on Thursday last week as the award-winning Tikuferanji drama series went off-air due to what an insider described as content perceived to be offensive to government.
MBC attributed the interruption to faulty machines, but our source said the broadcasting crew suspended the 30-minute episode of the 12-year-old soap after a directive from a senior manager (name withheld).
“The programme, essentially advising powerful people to stop oppressing their juniors, was certified fit to go on air at 20.30pm on Thursday. But in the middle of the broadcast, we received a phone call from our boss to stop it immediately,” said one of sources who asked for anonymity.
They said the matter is being pursued by MBC management and Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority (Macra) even if it threatens a crowd-pulling programme which generates large sums of money.
Founded in 2000, Tikuferanjiâ€”starring Manganya (real name Michael Usi)â€”is sponsored by Adventist Development and Relief Agency (Adra) to raise awareness and behavioural change on issues about HIV and Aids, food security and livelihood
The prematurely ended programme was based on Exodus 35: 26 which says: â€œDo not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.â€
Online Bible commentaries say the verse discourages Jews’ idolatrous rite of boiling kids in dam’s milk and sprinkling its bloods on fruit trees in anticipation of higher yields. But the contentious Tikuferanji episode likened the goat to Malawians and milk to the country, advising superiorsâ€”from school heads to hospital personnel, bosses and rulersâ€”-not to oppress the very people they are meant to save.
â€˜Art is a big disciplineâ€™
In an interview, Usi, who doubles as Adra deputy country director, said he has heard about the speculated interruption, but MBC TV had not approached him officially.
“I don’t know anything about it. I am also hearing it from rumours. But all I can say is that art is a big discipline and as artists, we always try to be in tune with our ethics. When people start speculating, they end up preaching the message the act was not meant to share,” said Usi, whose Kale road rehearsals were recently halted by the police.
The Kale roadshow, in honour of Malawiâ€™s founding President Hastings Kamuzu Banda, was meant to run from Blantyre Old Town Hall to Limbe but was suspended at Southern Region Police Headquarters, Chichiri, to pave the way for a presidential convoy.
He distanced his personal exploits from Adra behavioural change and advocacy programmes which he said follow strict guidelines.
Among its feats, viewers voted Tikuferanji the best TV drama show in 2004 and 2008 MBC Entertainers of the Year Awards. It also bagged the 2007/8 Diversity Leader Award for the same feat.
In 2007, Adra flew Usi and company to Sweden to help entrench TV as a tool for behaviour change communication. Two years later, they were invited to Rwanda where they introduced a similar programme to reconcile Hutus and Tutsis after the 1994 genocide.
But MBC director of programmes Chimwemwe Banda downplayed the Thursday sideshow which threatens one of the successful programmes on the State-run television station.
“Do you know what Tikuferanji is all about?Â Tikuferanji is an HIV programme. But we are experiencing a problem with our recorders and the problem is also affecting other programmes,” said the MBC programmes director.
MacraÂ spokesperson Zadziko Mankhambo said he was â€œin the dark” on reports that the board of broadcasters’ regulatory body was scrutinising Tikuferanji recordings.