Times Group media house's senior sports journalist Mphatso Malidadi was voted in as president of Malawi's Sports Writers Association (Swam) president during their elective annual general meeting held on Saturday at Football Association Malawi (FAM's) Mpira Village at Chiwembe in Limbe.
He takes over from veteran journalist Leonard Sharra, who had been acting president since September after the resignation of founding president Peter Kanjere, who decided to leave office last year due to pressure of work.
Sharra was Kanjere's deputy all along but he said he decided not to contest for the presidency despite persistent calls from a section of the membership for him to continue because he is presently holding two crucial positions of secretary general for Malawi Anti-Doping Organisation and general secretary for Chessam Association of Malawi.
"I felt I could not be effective in these position if I continued to lead Swam. I communicated my decision not to seek re-election at the beginning of 2018 to allow people freely campaign for the association's presidency and look for possible replacements.
"I'm very happy with the choice of leaders they have made. They are leaders that have been there for Swam in good and bad times," he said.
On his part, Malidadi said he has been an active and paid-up member since the formation of Swam almost nine years ago and he was approached by some journalists to consider standing because they felt he would champion their interests
"They also felt that I could easily bridge the gap between junior and senior reporters. I think it is only proper to recognise those that established Swam. It is a big achievement for sports reporters, editors, photographers and cartoonists to come together to speak with one voice."
Moving forward, Malidadi believes there is need to hold reporting workshops so that journalists should be able to analyse issues and interpret them properly.
"At this time when social media is very highly preferred, as sports reporters we need to remain relevant by unique style of reporting whether for electronic or print media.
"In the meantime, we don't need to rely on foreigners to hone our skills we can use some of our local experts to conduct various courses. For instance, when the founding president Peter Kanjere made his presentation at the AGM, everyone was left satisfied with the content.
"So we can use experienced journalists in the country to drill up and coming reporters. The workshops will concentrate on various sporting codes not just football and netball because Swam is for all."
Malidadi's deputy is Rainbow TV's award winning sports journalist Lucy Kadzongwe while the general secretary is Wesysylas Chirwa from MBC whose deputy is Pledge Jali.
The treasurer is Daniel David Dauda and the coordinator is Japhet Thole. Executive members are Rabson Woodwell, Sylvester Kapondera, Phinex Chidaya, Synoden Kadzakumanja and Joy Khakona.
Sharra said he is happy with his tenure of office and the team he has been working with in the three-year period he was vice-president and the one-year period he was acting.
"It was a very dedicated and hard-working team and it was through such unity that we managed to successfully hold this year's elective AGM, which attracted about 80 members from all the three regions.
"We actually had to restrict the number of members attending the AGM to 80 due to limited resources as we had a total of 104 registered members. This clearly shows the members appreciate the importance of such a grouping.
"Similarly, companies and organizations like TNM, Airtel, Castel Malawi, Chibuku Products, Nyasa Manufacturing, Football Association of Malawi, Sports Council and many more have realized the importance of partnering with the grouping of sports journalists and have been working with the association on several fronts apart from providing financial support.
"When I was vice-president in 2014, I was delegated by my president to represent him at the 2014 Association of International Sports Press (AIPS) annual congress in Paris, France and whilst there, I learnt that our colleagues from other countries including African countries commemorate the World Sports Journalists Day, which fall on July 2 every year.
"I sold the idea to the executive after coming back and we had our maiden celebration on August 4 and 5, 2017 at Livingstonia Beach in Salima, which was combined with the Swam AGM. For the first time in the association's history, the Swam membership gathered at the lake to commemorate the World Sports Journalists Day and conduct the AGM."
Sharra said he has observed that the standards of sports reporting in the country have gone down despite the mushrooming of media houses, particularly due to social media, which has enhanced personal ties between sports journalists and the sports administrators they are supposed to scrutinize, thereby compromising their role as watchdogs of the society.
During the AGM, it was recommended that Swam should choose new trustees following the expiry of the tenure of office for the previous board of trustees headed by seasoned journalists Gracian Tukula. The other trustees included Alaudin Osman, Anthony Kasunda, Phillip Madinga, lawyer Joster Chisale and late Peter Khamisa, who passed away in 2016.