And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. — Habakkuk 2:2
David Benthu Nthengwe is as jovial and enthusiastic as he was in 1993 when he landed on the media stage to join a coterie of media activists that championed the fight for democratic change in Malawi. But despite his rise to stardom on national, regional, and later the international scene working for UNHCR, a freak criminal act almost put an end to this brilliant life.
Why celebrate a living person, one might ask, affirming that it might be a bad omen? This is on the premise that our custom has been to celebrate those that have departed from our midst. However, I desire to recount the laughter that abounds within me. Benthu inspired many journalists in Malawi’s fight for democracy. His love of journalism that led him from one level of national prominence to the regional Media Institute for Southern Africa (Misa) and later the international scene, encouraged me to continue my tenacious amour with processing and disseminating information to the public.
Barely one month into the life of The Independent newspaper, an application letter landed on my desk. It was hand-delivered; and within one hour, I received a call from the supervisor of a freight agency, speaking on the application.
So, who is David Benthu Nthengwe? He joined The Independent in its formative years and helped build a formidable advocate for Malawi’s democratic change. He was as excited and fearless as I was, and sometimes outdid my own tenacious stance on issues. He found that by frequenting bars, he snooped out news sources.
In the three years he was at The Independent, we moved from being a weekly to bi-weekly and later tri-weekly.
“With the little that we had, we were a great team,” he told me when I finally found him at Maluza Village in Mzimba District.
Nthengwe had a regular column called Paying the Cost. As editor of The Independent, he built a team of permanent and freelance media men and women. Thanks to a computer donated by Unesco, most of the reporters and advertising clerks, learned how to type, with Benthu at the helm of training the group.
He later attended a month-long training in Italy, through a grant from the European Union. Soon after his training, David was offered a job by Misa and while there, he launched an annual report titled So this is Democracy? He edited it for the next five years. He picked up a UNHCR post in the communications section. He travelled extensively to Namibia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Great Lakes Region, Tunisia, Angola, Pakistan, Switzerland, Uganda, Senegal, and Kenya. Some of his positions have been public information officer, external relations officer, regional donor relations officer, and regional information researcher. David holds a master’s degree in communications. He is an expert in the Great Lakes region.
Later, David Benthu Nthengwe disappeared from the radar. He was missing on social media platforms, his cell number was missing from my cell phone; he had simply disappeared. When I finally found him (thanks to accessibility availed to users on social media platforms), he told me that he had been attacked by thieves while on official duty in Nairobi which left him partially blind.
He still enjoys employment with the UNHCR, however, is on a long absence of leave. When I rallied his former workmates to write about him, this is what they had to say about David Benthu Nthengwe:
“David is a go-getter kind of investigative journalist [thus from a one-party system to multi-party system era]\) with patience to write the truth. With a kind, calm and resourceful personality…He took criticism with humbleness.” — Karen Longwe Butao
“He has been a very humble person who has never, for the entire 10 years, disappointed or provoked any editorial staff at Independent Newspaper.” — Steve Bombeya. I profoundly pray for David Benthu Nthengwe’s total recovery and restoration of his eyesight and general health.