Bongani Ndlovu, Showbiz Correspondent
BOASTING of being able to speak, read and write in six indigenous languages, meet fast tongued National FM drive time radio presenter Thulani Munyandi who has the ambition to one day be a member of the House of Assembly for his home town of Hwange.
Munyandi, popularly known as the branch manager of entertainment, presents Abancane Qha on the station as well as music programme Sikhiph’amabatshi that airs on Wednesday from 10.30PM. He has over 15 years of experience on radio and apart from that, he is a television personality who reads news on Saturdays and Sundays in his native tongue of Nambya from Montrose Studios in Bulawayo.
With two children, Taboka (13) and Tamara (4) and married to Juliet Mutarisi, the talented 42-year-old personality who was mentored by the late Joe Panganayi said he stumbled upon being a radio presenter as he wanted to be a teacher.
“My Grade 7 teacher — Mr David Mnkandla liked me a lot. He’d come to the school during the holidays and encourage me to read a lot of novels. I listened and because of my relationship with him, I was inspired by him and wanted to follow in his footsteps,” said Munyandi.
However, as fate would have it, an advert by ZBC for indigenous language speakers got him curious. In 2002 when he was working at Mutare Board and Paper Mills, Munyandi saw an advert for vacancies for people who could speak Nambya and other indigenous languages. He applied and got the job.
But, it was not an easy road as his first day in studio was a daunting task.
“The studio was unfamiliar ground for me and I, at one point, thought it was better to pursue a teaching career. Thankfully, my advisor, Gideon Msipa, encouraged me not to be afraid and took me through in-house training.
“During that time, I was attached to the late Joe Panganayi who was to become my mentor. Gradually, I gained confidence.
He said under the watchful eye of Panganayi, he was ushered into the world of radio after three months.
“Back then, you’d broadcast under the tutelage of your mentor. On a certain day, my mentor didn’t pitch up and I was given a task to cue music as a way to kill time as I was waiting for the mentor.
“After some time, the station manager called and asked why we weren’t speaking on air and I told him it was because my mentor hadn’t come. He said I should give time check (telling listeners the time) every 10 minutes. After our shift, he informed me that I was going to do a greetings show on Radio Zimbabwe.”
Munyandi said his father, renowned Nambya books author, Paul, was his biggest influence in his media career as the knowledge he gained from him landed him his first job at ZBC.
“My father is the type of man whom when you pronounce a word incorrectly, he’ll correct you instantly. He’ll explain why you would’ve pronounced it wrong, which mostly is because of language contact.
“He assisted me a lot in sharing the history of the Nambya people. Through him, I’ve more knowledge of the Nambya people than an 80-year-old person.”
Growing up in Hwange was also fertile ground for Munyandi to develop and cultivate his interest in indigenous languages.
“I could speak Nambya and Ndebele. The good thing about Hwange is that there’re people who can speak Chichewa and Tonga so through interacting with them, you get to learn their languages. My close friend Lawrence Mukombwe was instrumental in teaching me Tonga. When we moved to Mutare, I learnt how to speak Shona which wasn’t that hard to do. These other languages I learnt when I was at ZBC. For example Kalanga is much like Nambya.”
Munyandi, who is working on learning Venda and Chikunda, said the moniker Branch Manager was derived from his surname.
“I used to use a nickname Soko Jena on radio as Munyandi is my grandfather’s name and our surname is Ncube which I translated to Nambya as Soko Jena. One day, a listener from Mutare suggested that I rebrand to branch manager as Soko means Monkey. From then onwards I called myself the branch manager of entertainment,” said Munyandi.
He hopes to one day try his hand in politics as he believes he has been representing Hwange district on radio and TV.
“I like to represent people and for these past years, I feel I’ve been representing people, especially those who speak Nambya and Hwange district. I was like the custodian of the language here at the radio station. One day, I think I want to be a Member of Parliament, but not next year.”