Professional journalists barely make fine writers. Journalist Mzati Nkolokosa is an exception. He is one gifted writer with a finese you find in literature majors such as Madalitso Musa, Dr Ken Lipenga and Idriss Ali Nassah.
He writes with a knack of deep simplicity, weaving moving stories from fragments of the ordinary. You can be amazed, again, how fearless he is to take a stand.
He is a writer who is dangerously, and sometimes carelessly, opinionated on polarising issues and he is hardly afraid, with a smiling face, to step on the toes of some. In fact, he is defiant in his opinion and he hardly flinches
But that is the beauty of writing. Great writing is not about seeking universal acceptance. Rather, stirring thoughts in readers to appreciate that variety of views out there.
I think Mzati is good at that. However, to reach that level as a writer, one needs to be well-read, able to theorise the world and make informed perspectives. Mzati can be believed because he has the education. In fact, it is his education story that moved me to write this piece on him.
Look, Mzati’s education story—despite being a fine writer—personifies struggles most Malawian youths face. He went to the resource-poor Ulongwe Malawi College of Distance Education (MCDE) in Balaka.
He has never hidden how he struggled with his schoolmates to sit on Physical Science practical exams yet they spend the entire secondary school without being to a practical class.
He passed, against all odds. But bigger odds were yet to come. He failed entrance examinations to the University of Malawi (Unima) because—and this is a general story, too—he did not have an idea, being from a rural setting, of entrance exams. The failure moved him to the city to be like them—yes, those that learn entrance exams and pass.
He passed and got selected to pursue Bachelor of Arts in Journalism at The Polytechnic. His four years at Poly, his friends say, were tumultuous. He was not the best in class—someone who could pull great grades.
But he got his degree and became an instant hit when he joined Nation Publications Limited (NPL). As a news analyst on the features desk, Mzati caught the attention of the nation with his feature writing skills.
He gave us great stories drawn from the fragments of the ordinary. It was sweet reading his pieces and, while at Chancellor College, students scrambled for every of his piece.
In fact, when he joined the English Department as assistant lecturer in article writing, it was phenomenal interacting with him, especially, his love for African Literature, African History and African Philosophy.
We learnt later that he was not only just lecturing. He was also Master of Arts student in literature—which was quite surprising for somebody without a background in literature. I felt sorry for him. In fact, just during his undergraduate days, he struggled bitterly with his studies. But Mzati is Mzati. He managed to graduate, though.
We mourned bitterly, of course, when he left for Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC). Some of us felt he had been sold out and we won’t see that best writer again.
But our quest to survival, sometimes, sends us to destinations unknown and dangerous. Mzati negotiated this destination with a mark of his dream. While with MBC, he got a part-time teaching job at the College of Medicine.
While there, he interacted with other greater minds that propelled him to further studies. He enrolled for a doctorate degree in public health specialising in indigenous knowledge systems (IKS). It will be tough, I know. But Mzati is Mzati.
But why am I saying all this?
Well, it is because Mzati celebrated his 40th birthday on Wednesday and, as his loved student, I had to wish him a happy birthday.
Enjoy Mzati; for we enjoy with you as well.