Reviews & Profiles
Frank Walusimbi’s first love was not television
Posted Monday, March 11 2013 at 00:00
The NTV news anchor grew up admiring the late Venatio Senoga who hosted a well-researched science show on Radio Uganda in the age Internet was unheard of. He joined radio while in his Senior Six vacation and his star has continued to shine.
“What an almighty git.” Those are the words I said to myself the first time I got off the phone with Frank Walusimbi. That should have been the last time I talked to him but I’m a sucker for rejection. I called him several times and my persistence only served to reaffirm my hastily formed opinion of him. What an almighty git.
One would expect a journalist to be more accommodating. Instead, for a week or so he fed me some tripe. A lot of tripe. Problem is, due to a magnificent amount of idiocy on my part, I had not been talking to the real Frank Walusimbi. Instead I had been talking to (and cursing) the executive director of one of the country’s poorly run parastatals. The real Frank Walusimbi is very accommodating, especially if he is friends with your editor.
Frank Walusimbi is the kind of person I would not have for a roommate. Why? Because he reminds me of the method by which Jesus was conceived. Immaculate. There is not a single misplaced hair on him. Such is the attention to detail that one would think that it takes him ages to dress up.
“It doesn’t take me more than 10 minutes to dress up. Everything is in order and prepared well beforehand,” he says. I’ve spent the last three minutes with my mouth open, staring at him. All of a sudden, I want to become a metrosexual.
Finding a place to sit and talk was a little bit tricky. The conference room was taken up, so we decided to do a tuwaye style interview. We would sit on a bench in the Serena gardens and I would plough him with searching questions and he would give the most interesting answers.
Someone stole the bench. Surely the hotel has a couple of restaurants, I suggested to him.
“You cannot leave a Serena restaurant without spending a minimum of Shs100,000,” he warns me in a mixture of English and Luganda. As he is Him a Luganda news anchor, perhaps I should not be surprised that his speech is peppered with Luganda, giving it a certain knowing wisdom.
We end up conducting the interview in his car, and it (the car) is just like him, extremely neat.
Walusimbi has been a fixture on Ugandan television for the past six years. His masterly of Luganda has ensured the continued popularity of the Luganda news broadcast on NTV every evening. I asked him whether TV has always been his dream.
“No, not in the beginning,” he says. “In my mind, I’ve always wanted to be a journalist before anything else. And in my senior six vacation I was given an opportunity to present a programme called Praise the Lord on the Green Channel (part of UBC) which I left to do my degree in Mass Communication at UCU [Uganda Christian University, Mukono].
“In 2004 towards the end of my stay at UCU, I started contributing to the Sunday magazine. I was mainly writing humorous pieces as I was looking around for other stuff to do. Then in 2005 I joined the Daily Monitor as a features writer, and a reporter, after which I joined NTV in 2006. So as you can see, joining TV wasn’t part of a grand master plan. It just happened,’’ he explains.
Every journalist has a reason for being a journalist. A reason for being underpaid and unappreciated. While others have Bob Woodward and Amanpour, Walusimbi was inspired by Venacio Ssenoga (RIP)the veteran radio journalist.
“His shows were a must listen for me. By that time there were no computers and internet was unheard of, but he was so knowledgeable. Listeners would send questions about anything in the world and he would always have answers. It would amaze me,” he says.
I imagine the transition from print to TV wasn’t seamless. I ask him what the difference is.
“Writing for television is very tricky,” he says. “As a features writer I was used to writing lengthy pieces of 3,000 words, but on TV, I have to compress a story into one minute and 20 seconds. So you have to learn to do away with lot of things. You have to tell a day’s story in one minute. But when you learn the skill, you start to enjoy it,” he adds.