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In the Cottage with: CCTV Africa's Lindy Mtongana - Journalists are not and should not be celebrities

By Yvonne Aoll | Wednesday, May 11th 2016 at 12:09
Lindy Mtongana (left) speaks to Yvonne during the interview

Lindy Mtongana and I sit at The Carnivore’s (often referred to simply as “Carnivore”) tasteful conference room, in the beautiful, West-African style Heritage House. She’s composed. She’s ready to start the interview. Her phone beeps. She pardons herself before responding to a text, and then she asks: “Do you know what happened to vowels?”

I’m confused.  “Vowels?”

“Yes, vowels. When did people stop using vowels. And why? Why? Why do they have to type ‘G.D’ for good and ‘N.Y.T’ for night? I can’t figure these words out. Why is it hard for people to just type in proper English?!”

We both laugh at her visible frustration. She puts her phone on silent, apologizes again then looks at me. I like her. This, I think to myself, is going to be a fantastic session.

I ask Lindy if she’s been to Carnivore before and she admits she hasn’t. I tell her it’s famed for their fantastic “All You Can Eat” meat, exceptional entertainment and is now well associated with Churchill, the comedian. She smiles. I suspect she may not know who Churchill is. I move on.

I then mention that when it comes to entertainment, Carnivore has in the past hosted the likes of Sisqo, from Dru Hill.

“Sisqo? ‘Unleash The Dragon’ Sisqo?” she asks. We both laugh. She’s wowed.

Lindy, 33, is a news anchor with CCTV Africa, based in Nairobi. Her Kenyan female colleagues include Beatrice Marshall and Penina Karibe. She’s been in Kenya for only a year now.

When I asked for an interview, she was receptive and cordial about it. At Carnivore, upon prodding, she tells me she doesn’t do interviews. On further prodding, she reveals that she doesn’t quite take to interviews. She’s not a celebrity and she mostly considers journalism nothing but a job. She emphasizes that News doesn’t define her, “It’s just a part of me. I never want it to be the sum total of who I am.”

Her voice is striking in person just as it is on TV. So is her beauty. Lindy is warm and authentic and open. She’s as open about her achievements as she is about her struggles. She’s tough too, not mincing her word much.

Lindy speaks very well, taking the occasional pause, before elaborating on a point. She also frowns occasionally, at a subject she feels strongly about, or her face saddens, when she talks about certain things, like love, and the mistakes she’s made in the past.

As I turn the recorder on, I smile, because it’s people like Lindy who remind me why exactly I sought to seek people’s stories. With not much of a South African accent, when Lindy opens her mouth, she delivers depth, knowledge and certainty. She’s a woman who knows who she is, but it’s taken a while to get her where she is now.

My conversation with her aimed to decipher who Lindy Mtongana really is as a person and what she’s about, here’s what she revealed:

***

What prompted the move from South Africa to Kenya?

I think in the end it was just a matter of good timing, and a bit of chance and fate. A few colleagues had left the station I was working for, eNCA and moved to CCTV Africa here in Nairobi. And in a span of about two years, there were a few opportunities for me to come and join the team, but, at the time, the opportunities weren’t quite the right fit.

First as a sports anchor, then as a business news anchor, but they just didn’t fit. I loved my job at eNCA.

And then?

Well, eNCA decided to close down its Africa division, and they retrenched all 40 of us. I was suddenly without a job. I called my former colleagues, who told me there was actually a vacancy at CCTV, the timing turned out to be just right.

Has Kenya received you well?

Yes, very well. I think there are a lot of similarities with how South Africans like to enjoy themselves. The social life, it’s a lot similar. Particularly between Johannesburg and Nairobi, the people value good company, good food and good music. It’s great.

So, will you be coming to Carnivore for some meat?

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