Issa Michuzi - Award Winning Photo Journalist & Huge Liverpool Fan!

Ralph - How long have you been involved in Journalism? Could you tell us a little about how your career began?

Michuzi - Well, as long as it takes - that is if being involved in journalism for a whooping 20 years is anything to write home about. It started when a friend of mine, one Abdul Amasha, gave me a Pentax Spotmatic camera as a present way back in the 1980s. I had no idea how to operate the
Single Lens Reflex camera, since up to that time I had been taking snap shots using a 126mm Agfa pocket camera that i had then. Coincidently, the Goether Institute in Dar es salaam were running an evening photography class that I joined immediately. My aim was to know ho to operate my Pentax, but I ended becoming interested in photojournalism our course’s instructor, one Tom Mweuka, was a photojournalist and most of his instructions were of that nature. As an exercise I used to take lots of pictures and processed them, some of them I sent to newspapers.

It happened one day my photo of reggae musician Jah Kimbute made front page in the Daily News. It was such a great shot that the editors there asked me to contribute more often which I did. I guess they were happy with what they were seeing and offered me a job. I agreed and after about three years as a stringer on january 1, 1990 i was formally
employed. Two years later I was sent to Berlin for advanced photojournalism course at the International Institute of Journalism and when I returned home, joined the Tanzania School of Journalism for a three-year course that I graduated in 1996. The same year I got a scholarship to attend a specialised course in digital photography (then digital photography was just taking shape and we were lucky to be some of the first students from a developing country to study digital photography. We were then using a bulky Canon camera whose software was from Kodak) in Cardiff, Wales. In a nutshell that's me and as they say the rest is history.

Never to be seen without a camera!

Ralph - Did you always want to be a journalist? What did you imagine yourself doing as a kid?

Michuzi - No, I didn’t even dream of becoming a journalist. My role model as I was growing up was Michael Jackson. All that I wanted as a kid was to be rich and famous like Michael. It seems the journalist avenue
that I pursued took me there, though I am yet to become rich. I still hope that one day I will become rich and help shaping the journalism profession from African perspective, especially in the booming social media.

Ralph - Your blog has remained consistently popular over the last few years, receiving a huge number of visitors each and every day - How did http://www.issamichuzi.blogspot.com become Tanzania's favourite website?

Michuzi - Call it a lucky strike. When I started blogging on September 8, 2005 in Helsinki, Finland, where I had accompanied the then Minister for foreign affairs Hon. Jakaya Kikwete (now President of Tanzania) for the Helsinki Conference, little did I know that my blog that I started with the help of seasoned Tanzania blogger based in the US, Ndesanjo Masha, showed me the rudiments of blogging, it would become a monster it is today. All that I wanted to do was to tell Tanzanians in the Diaspora picture stories of home. They, the Diaspora, got interested, and visitors just came gushing in for the simple reason that I was the first blogger blogging everyday societal news from home. That, combined with hundreds of Breaking News and on the spot coverage of hundreds of social, political and sports events, was or rather is the secret, I guess, behind it all. Consistency and daily updates of same for all this time did the rest.

A huge fan of both traditional music and the latest Bongo Flava

Ralph - I remember meeting your band at Nyumba Ya Sanaa a few years ago. You clearly have a passion for Tanzania's traditional music. How about Bongo Flava, do you consider yourself a fan? any particular artists?

Michuzi - Of course I am a fan of Bongo Flava and can claim credence to being one of the first journalists to document Bongo Flava activities. Even today I am good pals with most top artistes and have great respect of them as they have of me. The Nyumba ya Sanaa thing was not only one band. It were groups of cultural troupes that I was helping to organise weekly shows at Nyumba ya Sanaa that sadly is now about to be pulled down to give way to a proposed sky scrapper, meaning we now have no venue. I hope to continue organising the shows at the National Museum and House of Culture that is currently under construction, and will be having a professional theatre and rehearsals as well as recording
facilities, i guess, by mid next year.

In the time being I plan to start organising cultural shows at CoCo beach with the WAPI movement that is coordinated by (guess who?) Ramadhani Mponjika aka Rhymson, one of the pioneers of Bongo Flava who together with several others had been causing waves with their Kwanza Unit group.

Therefore,a s you can see, I am still hanging there. Attending to both cultural activities and
Kizazi Kipya sounds!

Ralph - The UK's newspaper industry has been struggling for several years now with the availability of 24/7 news on the internet. Is it the same story in East Africa? What do you feel the future holds with regards to traditional print media in Tanzania?

Michuzi - Yeah, the story is the same over here, only at a slower pace, but its gradually taking shape. Most media houses run serious online mediums that are threatening the existence of traditional media. Therefore, the future as is the case in the UK, remains unpredictable. And over here the threat is not that huge because of a number of elements including the shortage of facilities, although the cellphone companies are eyeing
that niche market and will soon activate their activities. Thanks to the existence of the National Fibre Optic backbone that is being laid all over the country and that by mid next year Tanzania will be on the internet highway big time and the sky is the limit to what it would mean to the traditional media. But the bottom line is, and to answer your
question, the scenario over here is almost identical, but here at a snail's pace.

Wachumba Wapenzi na Watundu! Ray C receiving an unexpected proposal!

Ralph - It seems April the 1st is often an eventful of Action for Mr Michuzi - How many times have you been Engaged!? & any future plans of returning to politics?

Michuzi - Hahahaaa. I guess you are refering to the engagement ring plank you helped me pull with Ray C that day. Well, I have just been engaged once and that is it. I have never been in politics, save for official assignments, that do not qualify me as a politician. I guess I cant become one because I hate politics and I am an honest guy who like to stick to righteousness, as opposed to what politiking really is. Hahaaaaaa

Michuzi Addressing the Tanzanian Diaspora Conference

Ralph - It was great to see you at the Tanzanian Diaspora Conference in London earlier this year. Will you be coming again? What were the most pertinent issues brought up on the day for you?

Michuzi - Ah, that! That was one of the greatest moments in my life as a blogger. Imagine being invited by the High Commissioner to present a paper on blogging to people in the first world. Without blowing my own whistle, I guess, my paper on social media, that I suppose was well received, was the most pertinent. Not because I was presenting and sitting there at the high table with some of the most influential personalities, but because of the message behind it all; that Tanzanians both abroad and back home, are not really exploiting (positively) the potential of social media. Instead of bridging the news and information gap that is yawning down at us, we tend to use social media with petty stuff like who is wearing what and why, instead of how can we develop faster by using the information highway the way others do. It pains me to see few, if any, are making efforts to use the IT in forming agendas and finding ways on how to overcome many obstacles. With all the first world IT facilities in hand few have come up with ideas that will make the difference in our society. Take for example the good work babkubwa.com is doing. why don”t Tanzanians in the Diaspora steal a leaf from Ralph and come up with serious social media outlets that can bring up change? We need platforms to learn what others out there are doing.

We need sites that can enable us know where to find, say, tourists to visit Tanzania, pegging their interests higher up instead of blanket and out-dated online promos whose impact is not all that significant.

I must thank the then Tanzania's High Commissioner to UK - Hon. Mwanaidi Maajar who personally made sure I made the trip and did the presentation. I thank her and the High Commission team in London for being the ones who made the turning point of my blogging career. Their recognising not only my work but also the importance of social media has had a deep impact in me.

I hope others would emulate Mama Maajar's stand not only in the Diaspora but also back home where we still have many, many conservative minded people who regard social media as a nuisance, instead of a sleeping monster that when it wakes up will swallow all of them!

Michuzi and Ralph, suited and booted for the London Diaspora Conference

Ralph - Your work has led you to travel all over Tanzania and much of the world - any particular places of interest you'd love to go back to? And which locations are still on your wish list -where are you still keen to visit?

Michzui - Well, that’s very interesting. Areas that I always would love to go back include the White House in the US and 10 Downing street in the UK of which I had the fortune to visit at different periods and met the subjects in there. My wish list is very simple. I have scoured most continents the world over but have not been to the Oceania area of Australia and New Zealand. If I get the chance to get there one day I would have travelled the world. My dream location, however, is Acapulco. When and if i get rich I wouldn’t mind taking my family there for a vacation.

Issa Michuzi with President J.Kikwete during post election party at State House.

Ralph - Its great to see your new website Michuzi Post up online. Is this set to be an eventual replacement for your blog or something with a different emphasis?

Michuzi - I guess the answer to this is embedded in a short bio of Michuzi Post that reads as under -

"When renowned award winning photojournalist Muhidin Issa Michuzi started Tanzania’s most popular blog, www.issamichuzi.blogspot.com way back on 8th September 2005 in Helsinki, Finland (Check out http://issamichuzi.blogspot.com/2005_09_01_archive.html), with the primary objective of giving fellow country men and women in the Diaspora latest sights and sounds back home, as well as a platform where they could openly discuss issues, however mundane, little did he know the blog would become a news monster, enjoying over 500,000 unique local and outside the country visitors monthly – at over 20,000 hits a day.

It was no surprise that Michuzi Blog became the reference point of most of Tanzania’s news, views and information as years flew past, attracting many followers in its wake. Tanzania now has over 100 blogs online, as compared to only five in 1995, most of which run by Tanzanians living abroad. Thanks to Michuzi Blog that has time and again encouraged more and more Tanzanians to start blogging. Then, Michuzi Blog was the only
social media vehicle driven within the country. The blog continues to be a leader in the fast growing social media in Tanzania today.

Fast forward to August 2010. Time is up for www.issamichuzi.blogspot.com to change for the better. With friends busy to improve the blog, www.michuzipost.com is born. Whilst the primary objective of the now bigger team of Michuzi Blog remains to offer Tanzanians and their friends within and outside the country latest sights and sounds and views of the country, it has decided to bridge the existing news gap by coming up with a new look
site that will also offer value added material such as online TV and radio, real estate business, adverts as well as classifieds and tender information, to mention but some, in Tanzania and abroad, fasten your seat belts and enjoy the flight to greater heights."

I hope this answers your question!

Ralph – Asante Sana Michuzi! Its been a pleasure learning more about you!
sources by: /www.babkubwa.com