HomeOpinionMauluka belongs in Hall of Fame

Mauluka belongs in Hall of Fame

By Bill Saidi

JOHN Mauluka, who died in Malawi last month, belonged to one of the oldest families in what was then Harare township where he was born in 1932.

al, Helvetica, sans-serif”>He was also one of a number of Zimbabweans of Malawian origin who deserve to be ensconced in a Zimbabwe Journalism Hall of Fame if ever such an institution is planned.

Among others are Mtepuka and Nofas Kwenje, an early editor with African Newspapers, the company run by the Paver brothers and the pioneer of African publications such as the African Daily News, the Bantu Mirror, the African Weekly and African Parade.

On the political front, the most prominent Zimbabwean of Malawian origin has to be Bernard Chidzero. To this day, many young people are surprised when it is disclosed that Chidzero, who became Minister of Economic Planning and Development in the early Independence cabinet, was the son of a Malawian father and a Zimbabwean mother – something he himself proudly disclosed at every opportunity.

Mauluka, who worked as chief photographer of the fledgling Daily News in 1999, cut his photojournalism teeth at this famous company, where he worked for the African Eagle, printed in Salisbury for the Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) market.

The company also put out Bwalo la Nyasaland for the market in that country, now Malawi. I met Mauluka when we both worked for African Newspapers, although he was based in Lusaka and I worked in Salisbury with another veteran of photojournalism, Bester Kanyama. We met again at the Daily News in Harare and I was again struck by Mauluka’s gutsy commitment to journalism.

He would do anything to get a good photograph to go with the story. Under him worked young people such as Tsvangirai Mukwazhi, later to become an internationally recognised photojournalist for his work with such agencies as the US Associated Press and Reuters.

Mauluka had an appreciation of the absurd, yet was a serious professional, emphasising to his protegés the importance of the close-up picture to accompany a story rather than the “mug shot” so much preferred by the lazy, mediocre photographers of most of the state media.

One of his most famous and faithful students must have been his own granddaughter, Eugenia Mauluka, who joined the Daily News after John had retired in 2000. Eugenia had inherited his courage, but was to face her greatest challenge in 2002 at Africa Unity Square. There, she was the victim of a brutal attack by riot police breaking up a rally commemorating International Youth Day.

She and two others working for the Daily News – reporter Guthrie Munyuki and driver Shadreck Mukwecheni – were beaten up so thoroughly they had to take a number of days off from work to recover from their wounds.

Eugenia must have had the worst of it for when she appeared in court a few days later to answer charges under the notorious Public Order and Security Act, she burst into tears and her picture on the front page of the Daily News remains, for me, one of the most terrifying testimonies to police brutality in this country.

John Mauluka may have instilled into his granddaughter the same courage with which he confronted the colonial police in Northern Rhodesia as they tried to quell the agitation for independence among the African nationalists.

But Eugenia had reached her limit. After the incident in 2002, she left the country for the United Kingdom. But one suspects that even then, John Mauluka must have told her that this was an occupational hazard, whether the government was African or colonial. As long as the photographer wanted to record the truth, the authorities would do everything in their power to prevent this.

Mauluka knew that whether you are a reporter or a photojournalist, a government wishing to hide the truth from the people will hammer you time and time again.

Bill Saidi is editor of the Daily News on Sunday.

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