BY Nicholas Walsh
The recent rape allegation against a Mr Thom Chiumia of Nyasatimes has left me baffled and pretty miffed. This guy has made a living by exposing other people’s misdemeanors and might I add, rightly so; coz that’s his job. He’s a reporter and probably a good one. But he is accused of allegedly raping a 14 year old young girl. This is a serious offence. I’m not here to discuss about whether the legitimacy of the allegation or whether he is guilty or not. That’s the job of the authorities.
I’m somewhat annoyed because of the lack of public condemnation by fellow Malawians in diaspora and beyond. This resonates with the recent scandals of sexual misconduct in politics, entertainment, sports etc. People like Harvey Weinstein were able to get away with their sexual deviance because they thought they were too powerful.
They thought they could rape women and no one would stand up against them. Chiumia had audacity to leave a public function, head home to rape a young girl and return to the party. I’m sure he must’ve felt like a ‘big pimpin’ and untouchable. Most people are saying that they are not surprised. “This guy has been at it for some time”. Some people have gone as far as saying that this was a matter if ‘when’ not ‘if’. However, these conversations are taking place privately in living rooms. No one is publicly condemning this.
A few online Newspapers have reported the story which is very commendable. To me, this is inadequate. Reporting the story is one thing but condemning the actions is different. Also, a few people have condemned this man on social media, I salute you for your courage!!
Some people reading this might ask: Thom Who? But if you’re a Malawian living in the in the UK, the likelihood is that you’ve read the online news outlet Nyasatimes and have heard of Chiumia. He’s a reasonably talented journalist. Over the years, Nyasatimes have rapidly grown and become a major player in the online news playfield. They’re popular for exposing sensational scandals. I’m not sure what role Chiumia plays at the paper but somehow, he has influence as a ‘reporter’, ‘editor’, ‘founder’, ‘director’ and /or ‘columnist’. If you ‘google’ his name, Nyasatimes comes come out on the first results. To me that makes him a celebrity and it’s in the public interest that this story gets the attention it deserves.
The silence regarding this story from Nyasatimes has been deafening. Their ‘main man’ is accused of rape and they don’t comment at all. No condemnation, no acknowledgement, not even a denial. That is just disgraceful. Of course, everyone is ‘innocent’ until proven guilty. And I don’t want to play the role of the ‘judge, jury and executioner’. However, this is a serious allegation that has been made against him. And he was arrested. Nyasatimes should’ve come outright and made a comment; either to support their man (or condemn him) and/or suspend him temporarily until his name is cleared. But they are carrying on business as usual as if nothing has happened. Some people may want to come to his defence, that’ fine. There is no crime against defending a rapist. But imagine if the victim was your daughter or sister. He’s out on bail and posting photos on social media whilst his victim is in unimaginable distress after being traumatized.
As a community, Malawians should take some responsibility. We‘ve been publicly silent and yet this topic is the centre of conversation in private. No one is taking the courage to confront this head-on. People are talking (in private) how Chiumia has preyed on their wives, girlfriends and sisters but no one is coming out in the open. Reminds of a certain Jimmy Saville who managed to get away with sexual crimes for centuries only to be exposed after he died. Everyone knew what he was up to but no one said it in public. Let’s not forget that there are innocent victims behind all this; young girls and women who are suffering not knowing whether they’ve been infected with HIV and other diseases or even made pregnant. I can’t articulate enough the consequences of rape on the victim. And yet, we are happy to pass around photos of the victims on social media. Even in prison rapists and pedophiles are treated like scum. So, if the worst prisoners are able despise these deviants, what does that say about us as a community?
If the rumours are to be believed, this is a crime that was committed by a guy who’s done it before and is confident of getting away with it. The chances that there are other victims are very high. Exposing the acts this deviant sex predator is not about embarrassing him but is to help his victims start dealing with their trauma. It will also help and encourage his previous victims come out in the open and report him to the authorities.
So, I’m urging all Malawians (and other nationalities) in the UK and beyond to come out and openly condemn this man and not to hide in your little cocoons and private WhatsApp groups. He needs to be exposed for the sexual predator he is. Whether this guy survives this (which is very unlikely), people should isolate and denounce him, not liking his photos on social media. After all, he would expose anyone else in the same position in the name of journalism.