Michael Usi alias Manganya is a thespian who has been around for many years. Hs side-splitting drama has conquered both the entertainment and theatrical worlds. But do you know that Manganya’s stage name was once Buleki? Why? How does his funny character impact on his professional outlook? What about his controversy and meddling into politics? HOWARD MLOZI finds out in this interview:
Q: Who is Michael Usi?
A: He is a proud Malawian who has welfare of the people at heart, an actor and development worker. I come from Mulanje district, Golden Village in Traditional Authority (T/A) Chikumbu. I was born in a family of three boys; unfortunately my twin brother is late and I have an elder brother. I have two children who are a great source of motivation and I am working for Adra Malawi as deputy country director. I was trained as a medical assistant at Malamulo School of Medical Sciences. I guess that is all I can say about myself.
Q: How did you become an actor?
A: It all started with a Mrs. Maluwichi, my English Literature teacher at Mulanje Secondary School who spotted and motivated me and made me what I am today. Although I used to be quiet, observant and always commenting on issues when the need arose, my teacher saw the acting potential in me. I recall very well that the first play that I was featured was Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart in which I played the role of Ikemefuna. Since then I found it easily to communicate through theatre until 1990 when I established my first theatre group which was carrying out campaigns against non-communicable diseases.
Q: Before you became Manganya, people used to know you as Buleki in Mulanje, why?
A: Indeed, I was popularly known as Buleki simply because I suddenly became fast at doing things. I was also controversial so, people wanted me to slow down.
Q: You are very funny, should people take you seriously when it comes to work?
A: Well, I went to school. One of the subjects in medical training is management which prepared me to handle different situations professionally. I am a very serious person who does not act funny in normal life. I hold a very senior position in Adra Malawi. My office makes or breaks relationship with partners such donors. It has also helped me to get closer to the government up to the high office of the President. It’s a serious profile and I cannot afford to be funny when it comes to that regard.
Q: You have been commenting on politics, sometimes criticising the presidents. Are you not afraid?
A: As a bonafide citizen, I am very passionate about issues that happen in Malawi and my level of education has helped me to rub shoulders with people that matter and others that do not all over the world. So, I am well-read; when I stand up to speak on issues that affect poor people, I am not a person who speaks from the vacuum; I dwell on research and analysis.
I have come to realise that development is about understanding the needs of people and at the same time knowing that politics is a facilitator for development. Politics is not about wrestling for power, but utilising the available resources to bring about the needed change. So, when I criticise leaders in the country, it is not for funny at all, but a cry for my beloved country. They know the truth that they can do better, but because they are entangled in a cobweb of confusionists, they pretend. But deep down their hearts they know the trust that we all need to rise up for our country because people are suffering.
Q: What is it that you want see at the end of this fight?
A: As an individual who knows what it takes to develop a country, I want to see Malawi with leaders that are accountable to the people they serve. My parents once told that ‘if you are relevant to people, then your birth is useless’. So, leaders that have welfare of people at heart always stay relevant to people.
Q: What do you like doing?
A: I am a fun of Liverpool and I like watching soccer and playing with my two daughters who are my greatest critics. I also love interacting with youths who are the engine for Malawi’s development. However, Malawi remains poor because youths’ potential is not tapped rather trapped in ‘put them down syndrome’. n