OPINION: The rise of bongo zozo, presenter Kikeke and Swahili brand

Friday September 13 2019

Fredy Macha is a writer and musician  based in

Fredy Macha is a writer and musician  based in London.Blog,www.fredymachablogspot. 

We might be laughing at their jokes and social media posts.

We might feel as if it is some ego stimulant. Some passing fad. Call it what you like; things happen for a reason.

In my time in the media I have seen public personalities of all sorts. There are those we acknowledge and fall on our knees and salute and stammer.

I remember meeting Robert Mugabe in 1978 at the Hotel Kilimanjaro. Five stars Hotel Kilimanjaro in 1978 was like heaven. Mr Mugabe and his entourage addressed us at an intense press conference. Having finished he flicked his hands: “I would like that young man to come with us upstairs...”

His bodyguards and buddies led me and my camera man, the late Uhuru photographer, Awadhi Shebe. Mugabe was superb subject to interview. I was young and eager and searching for the perfect sentence to quote him. My editors were very pleased. Years later I wasn’t surprised he was President. The only wonder, though, why Joshua Nkomo Patriotic Front colleague did not also take centre stage. The way Karume and Nyerere and Kawawa and Kambona had partnered Tanzanian leadership after 1961...

Well, Mugabe passed away, few days ago and various questions haunt and rove around my skull. I still recall that younger robust promising teacher -like freedom fighter I met and had a beer one sunny afternoon in 1978. It could have been better. But history is a very complex book.


We are still talking of media and personalities...

There was another Uhuru colleague, the much older camera maestro, Khatibu Ally. Those days press photographers were very discreet.

So were broadcasters. I remember the first time I met Tido Mhando. I had heard his voice on the radio for years. And here he was at Uhuru offices chatting to the late Abdi Mushi and the exuberant Salva Rweyemamu (still around now). Those days media stars were mere names and voices. Seeing them in the flesh was an eye catching event. Meeting Philip Ochieng and Jenerali Ulimwengu (both still active)...was special too...they were celebrated Daily News columnists and I would read them with awe.

And what about... Chama Omari Matata in London many years later? Mr Matata continues ticking; he has seen a lot happening. A legendary BBC Radio Swahili presenter with an extraordinary voice. Several passed through after, Vicky Ntetema, and Jumbe Omari Jumbe (now retired) Ali Saleh (retired), and many more...Ali Saleh was so calm. He would phone me in Brazil when they won the 1994 World cup for his sports bulletins.

Then you have the new generation.

Zuhura Yunus and Salim Kikeke, for example.

Currently doing a fantastic job at London’s BBC Swahili.

There is a reason I say a good job. All the names I have mentioned worked hard and made a contribution. The difference was (and is) the internet.

Social media has been vilified and criticised for polluting our youngsters. But it is a formidable tool of communication. I watched a clip of Kikeke and Yunus joking for a few seconds prior to Zuhura reading the news, few weeks ago...

Light hearted stuff. But it had thousands of views on Instagram and hundreds of positive comments. One female viewer said each time she watched those two it made her day better.

Here are two things. Or more.

BBC was never a popular broadcasting channel for ordinary East Africans. It was for elite listeners. But social media is making it people - friendly. News presenters are supposed to be serious people. Many young people will tell you they don’t read (or watch) the news. Too gloomy. But these two presenters are revolutionising perceptions. Plus of course THE promotion of Kiswahili.


You have probably heard of this Bongo Zozo character. A Zimbabwe born, British grown, Tanzanian father. Very pleasant Mzungu who speaks Swahili fluently and creating phrases like “FujoIsiyoumiza.” I first saw him on Ayo TV - another recent phenomenon with two million subscribers on You Tube, (compared to my “Kwa Simu Toka London” with only 6,000 plus!)...

Ayo TV cornered Bongo Zozo during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt. Zozo’s enthusiasm for Tanzania Stars.

His easygoing Swahili and passion for his Tanzanian family. Then he was on BBC Swahili and Zuhura Yunus highlighted his jovial, funny, cheerful personality draped in a Tanzania T-shirt always...always. Tanzania. Always.

What this whole 2019 package is doing, is farther strengthening Swahili and Tanzania as a brand.

Hardworking President Magufuli made a stand using Swahili at the SADC meet last month. Minister Harrison Mwakyembe has repeatedly insisted Swahili is blossoming on the world stage. Growth of any language depends on all sorts of brands through the spirit of creative individuals.

Yes! It can be done. Play your part.