Tributes are pouring in from around the world for Raphael Kinn Tenthani, who died this week in a traffic accident aged 43. Known to BBC World Service listeners for his excellent reporting from Malawi, and to all Malawians as “The Muckraker” for his fearless column in the Sunday Times, Tenthani was a scourge of corrupt political elites and a fierce defender of press freedom.
At the Nyasa Times, Thom Chiumia paid tribute to his colleague and friend:
“To those of us who revered him – and we were many – we like to think of him as the amazing mixture of writer, journalist, activist and unique character. I have known Tenthani for a long time. When I was cutting my first teeth in the media profession, he inspired me and I followed in his footsteps.”
Malawi and Africa has lost a pillar of strength, and a brave and compassionate voice.
Haunted House & Arrest
In 2005, he reported in a news article that the President of Malawi had moved out of the presidential palace due to the fear of a ghost. In his article, he sourced the president’s religious affairs adviser, the Rev Malani Mtonga.. The Reverend had reported that President Bingu wa Mutharika had left the presidential palace because he was hearing “strange noises” and “felt a strange presence hanging around him” at night. But Rev Mtonga subsequently denied making that statement to the press. However, another renowned journalist, Mabvuto Banda, had reported the same story in the The Nation.
Tenthani and Mabvuto Banda were both arrested at their homes in Blantyre and detained at police headquarters in Lilongwe. He was going to be charged with “publishing false information that is likely to cause a breach of peace”. He was released on bail shortly after.
During the Bingu wa Mutharika administration, he became to target of attacks from the government due to his criticism of the President. Tenthani’s house was ransacked by an unknown assailant in 2011, following the Malawi protests against the Mutharika administration.