Saturday, 21 October 2017

Zambian Journalists in $20,000 Boost From US Government

US Ambassador Eric Schultz (in suit) during the grant
signing ceremony last week
By Staff Writter

The Unites States Government has provided $20,000 to PAMOS Media Consultancy, a private company to conduct capacity building trainings to 100 Zambian journalists.

The funding is for one year and is aimed at training the journalists in budget tracking and investigative journalism skills.

Speaking when he hosted 11 organisations and companies which were granted about $300,000 in combined funding last week, US Ambassador to Zambia Eric Schultz said the grants are aimed at helping Zambian grassroots organisations work.

“These grants go to the grassroots organisations that are at the core of development in Zambia. The United States government has a long term commitment to help organisations which are making a difference,” said Mr Schultz.

PAMOS Media Consultancy was funded under the Accountability and Transparency theme to build the capacity of journalists to report on the utilisation of public funds.

“Under this project, we will train journalists to understand the budget formulation process, the utilisation of public funds and the role other relevant government institutions make in checking how public funds are utilised,” said PAMOS Media Consultancy founder and Managing Director Paul Shalala.

Mr Shalala, who is a 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow, said the project will start in November 2017 and is expected to be concluded in August 2018.

He added that the organisation will not restrict itself to the 100 budgeted journalist but may go beyond the number to ensure as many journalists are trained in the next one year.

In this project, Mr Shalala partnered with 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow Christabel Mwango to apply for the grant.

The two are expected to commence their trainings next month in Lusaka before going to other provinces.

“Tentatively, we have set November 3 as the date of the launch of the project in Lusaka and the subsequent holding of the Lusaka Province training. Three weeks later we will be in Southern Province and Eastern Province in early December,” said Miss Mwango.

She revealed that the remaining seven provinces will host their trainings in 2018.

Under the project, PAMOS Media Consultancy is also expected to produce a 25 minutes documentary to show how Zambian journalists will benefit from the project.

The documentary will be aired on a number of Television stations. 

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

How A Monk From Nangoma Became A Catholic Priest

Father Milanzi (in white) with members of Nangoma Parish
By Paul Shalala

In the 1990s he lived in Shangala Village and I lived in the neighbouring village of Lubanze.

These villages are found in Nangoma area of Mumbwa District in Central Province.

We were both at Kasalu Basic School, though he was a Grade ahead of me.

At school, he never liked issues of girlfriends and we nicknamed him Monk Lee.

In those days, school boys who never wanted to interact with girls used to be nicknamed monks.

But this guy would sit us down and advise against premarital sex, HIV and AIDS, pregnancies, etc.

When we both went to Mumbwa High School, he continued being a monk and the Monk Lee name grew even bigger.

He then joined the Zambia Combined Cadet, a wing of the Zambia Army which trains pupils military tactics in preparation for a career in the military after school.

Being in the cadet made people fear him more as it was perceived that cadets had extra powers to either misbehave or discipline fellow students.

Father Milanzi presiding over mass at Nangoma Parish
This made my friend become a serious ‘anti-girls’ person.

Today, am proud to say Monk Lee is now Father Peter Milanzi who presides over St Joseph Mission Kalumbwa in Kalulushi.

The Parish is located along the Kalulushi – Lufwanyama road.

Monk Lee is now a full time Catholic Priest.

Two weeks ago, he went back to our village for thanksgiving Mass at Nangoma Parish and he was given a thunderous welcome.

Proud son of Nangoma.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Journalist’s Death Sparks Anger Over Maternal Death In Zambia

Sitembile Siwawa Zulu
By Paul Shalala

In life, Sitembile Siwawa Zulu was just an ordinary journalist.

But in death, she has united the nation to fight for a just cause: reduce maternal death.

According to UNICEF, Zambia has one of the highest mortality rates.

“In Zambia, 591 maternal deaths occur per 100,000 live births while the infant, neonatal and under-five mortality rates are at 70, 34, and 119 per 1,000 live births, respectively. These mortality rates are unacceptably high. The major causes of child mortality are malaria, respiratory infections, diarrhoea, malnutrition, and anaemia,” reads a statement on the UN agency's Zambia page..

Three days ago, Zambia Daily Mail Sub-Editor Sitembile delivered what people call a ‘bouncing baby girl’ at the Levy Mwanawasa General Hospital in Lusaka.

A day later when everyone was sending her congratulatory messages, Sitembile breathed her last and that’s how Zambia lost one of its hard working journalists.

She became the latest victim of women who die while giving birth.

Sadly, her death came a few days before the first anniversary of her marriage to Mr Victor Zulu.

Her death has sparked outrage on social media.

Zambians from all walks of life are shocked at the untimely death of the 29 year old scribe who was recently promoted to the position of Sub-Editor after working as a reporter for a long time.

At the moment, the most trending hashtag in Zambia is #NoWomanShouldDieWhileGivingLife which is a spontaneous social media campaign to highlight the plight of women in labour.

On Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, Zambians have been discussing the challenges women face while deivering.

Zambians on Facebook writing about Sitembile's death
For Sitembile, I remember her for having dedicated a good part of her career covering issues of gender, children and agriculture.

She ran a blog called Gender@Heart where she wrote many stories over the years.

The profile on her blog reads: “Apart from being a writer, blogger and everything else, Sitembile has strong passion for fashion and beauty particularly black beauty! Having endured so much ridicule for being dark, she is a strong advocator of black big beauty! Everything about fashion and beauty to her centres around dark African women. She believes in the world of women although she is not a feminist.”

On the blog, as well as in the Zambia Daily Mail newspaper, Sitembile wrote many award winning pieces on children and gave a human face to the challenges children face and the strides they make in life.

“I hear that my former ZAMCOM student Sitembile Siwawa has passed on. She had finally become a colleague at Daily Mail and a Save the Children reliable reporter. My last lesson to her was 'Stembile, you seem to have an interest in children issues. Make it your niche'. She never relented and became a goodwill ambassador for children through her work. Dying in child birth after delivering a bouncy baby. RIP,” wrote Chishaba Masengu, a former lecturer and now a  Media and Communications Coordinator at Save The Children Zambia.

Sitembile (middle) and her close friend Doreen Nawa (far left)
 during the 2014 CAADP Media Awards
Even for women, Sitembile did the same but unfortunately, she ended up facing one of the challenges they grapple with: maternal mortaity.

In her career, Sitembile was a member of the African Union's Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) Journalist Network which promotes the reporting of agricultural issues on the continent.

In 2014, she was awarded the CAADP Journalist of the Year Award in Durban, South Africa.

The story which made her win this prestigious pan-African media award was titled “Female Farmers Empowerment Vital.”

Just the title of the story tells you how passionate the lady was to gender issues and agriculture.

At a personal level, I had a few encounters with Sitembile when I used to work in Lusaka.

Most times we would meet on assignments and she was this shy lady who rarely spoke in public.

I remember one time asking her if she knew the Siwawa family of Mumbwa who reside in a village called Natani which is close to my own village Lubanze in Nangoma area.

She told me she was related to them and that their clan originally hails from Zimbabwe.

Mr and Mrs Zulu on their wedding in September 2016
Apart from journalists just praising her in death or sharing the hashtag #NoWomanShouldDieWhileGivingLife, others have gone a step further to question why issues of women and maternal mortality rarely make it to the front page of tabloids or evening bulletins of major TV stations.

“But I want every Zambian journalist reading this to pause for a minute and reflect on how it came to pass that we failed Sitembile and thousands of women like her by not making health a story worth telling, even though health is a matter of life and death for 14 million people who live in this country. And she passed on in a big city, the capital where there is even some modicum of care and infrastructure. Think about women tucked in the nooks and crannies of Zambia who risk death every time they have to give life to a child,” wrote Edem Djokotoe, a Ghanaian-born journalist and media trainer who has vast experience in media issues in Zambia.

Edem further says: “I am angry at all of us because we have chosen to subvert the values of news which form the bedrock of our professional and throw Public Interest out of the window. We have gone to bed with politicians and made them the only story in town. We don’t cover health unless the Health Minister is making a speech about health.”

Meanwhile, the Zambian government has launched an inquiry into the circumstances leading to Sitembile’s death.

A statement issued by the Minister of Health Dr. Chitalu Chilufya says authorities will soon get to the bottom of the matter.

And a senior Ministry of Health official has explained what is known so far.

Sitembile with Brenda Zulu in Johannesburg,
South Africa during a CAADP meeting 
“Sitembile Zulu, 29 years old, in her 2nd pregnancy underwent a caesarian section due to fetal distress on the 8th September 2017. Fetal distress is when the fetus does not receive adequate amounts of oxygen during pregnancy or labour. It is oftentimes detected through an abnormal fetal heart rate. The deceased became breathless after taking a bath yesterday in the morning, after which the condition rapidly deteriorated before she passed on despite efforts to resuscitate her,” said Dr Maximilian Bweupe, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Health.

Tributes have also come from Zambia’s official Government Spokesperson Kampamba Mulenga (Minister of Information) who has described Sitembile’s demise as a loss to the nation.

For some of her close friends, her death is a shocker.

Doreen Nawa, a reporter at the Zambia Daily Mail has shared her thoughts over the death of a colleague who I used to fondly call her ‘twin sister.’

She tweeted: “Am lost without you Sitembile…… Your death was preventable.”

Doreen and Sitembile travelled across the globe together and shared many platforms abroad where they jointly received media awards.

Another close friend Brenda Zulu, a blogger, said: “Remembering you through our travels around Africa as we covered Agriculture. We took these pictures for Doreen Chilumbu Nawa as she did not come along with us in Jo'burg for the conference. Will miss you! #RIP Sitembile Zulu.”

Sitembile’s death is not just a local story.

The impact of her death after delivering a child has made it on international media with the London-based BBC publishing an account of her death while some Nigerian sites have carried it too.

For Sitembile, her life has come to a tragic end but for her husband of 11 months, this is the time when Zambians need to show him love and care.

For us in the media, we will continue emulating Sitembile for the causes she stood for: Gender, Children and Agriculture.


Hamba Kahle Sisiwethu!!!!!

Saturday, 9 September 2017

NEPAD Calls For Multi-Sectoral Approach To Fight TB In Mines

Part of the workshop in Ndola -Picture courtesy of ECSA-HC
By Paul Shalala in Ndola


Mining is a major activity in the most of the countries in Africa.
The mining sector has been a major source of revenue for these countries for over a century.
However, mines come with their own challenges.
Tuberculosis (TB) is one disease which affects most miners.
This is why the World Bank has funded a five year project dubbed Southern Africa Tuberculosis and Health System Support Project in four countries.
The Bretton Woods institution has committed US$122 million United States dollars to the project which is being implemented in Zambia, Lesotho, Malawi and Mozambique.

The project was launched in the four countries in March this year.

The African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Agency has called for a multi-sectoral approach to the fight against Tuberculosis in the mining sector.

NEPAD Senior Policy Specialist Chimwemwe Chamdimba says there is need for African countries to take a broader perspective on TB and fight it in the mining industry.

Speaking during a recent workshop in Ndola, Ms Chamdimba said African countries must look at TB as a challenge to productivity and it should be fought hard to help develop their respective countries.
"This community of practice now moves us from looking at TB in our silos to looking at it in the broader sense so that we look at it in the labour part of it, we look at it from the mining point of view, we look at it from the employer's angle and we look at it from the employer's angle. It is from that unique blend that we can tackle this challenge which has been with us for 100 years," said Ms Chimdimba during the opening of the workshop.


The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) also took part in the workshop.

Its representative Dr. Alphonse Mulumba, who is a Senior Programme Officer for HIV and AIDS, said he hoped more SADC members would join hands to fight TB in the mines.


Currently, SADC has 15 member states but the World Bank only selected Zambia, Lesotho, Mozambique and Malawi for the  Southern Africa Tuberculosis and Health System Support Project.

"You know that HIV and TB are very much related. The mining sector is very much critical is fueling TB. This meeting is coming in good time and we expect most of the protocols the senior leaders take will bear fruits....... We hope more members states will join this program," said Dr Mulumba.
Among institutions that made presentations during the three day workshop was the East, Central and Southern Africa Health Community (ECSA-HC) which emphasised the need for the region to operationalise the community of practice.

"Once the community of practice is fully functional, it will not only be advisory to the countries but will also offer tangible advise to the countries in order to improve occupational health services," said Dr. Walter Odoch, ECSA-HC Health Systems and Public Health Manager.
Under the Southern Africa Tuberculosis and Health System Support Project, Zambia is supposed to host a center of excellence at the Occupational Health and Safety Institute in Kitwe.
During the workshop, the delegates toured the institute to appreciate its challenges.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Fire Burns 3,000 Stands at Kapalala Market In Ndola

Remains of Kapalala Market in Ndola
By Paul Shalala in Ndola

Goods worth millions of Kwacha have been destroyed to ashes at Kapalala Market in Ndola after a fire swept through the market yeasterday, destroying over 3,000 stands.

The fire, which started around 01:30hrs, was only quenched around 06:00hrs.

Fire fighting crews from the Ndola City Council, Luanshya Municipal Council, Indeni Petroleum Refinery and the National Airports Corporation battled the inferno for several hours.

Ndola Chief Fire Officer Wellingtone Mulambo says it took long for the fire crews to quench the fire because the market had no access roads.

Mr Mulambo says fire fighters found it difficult to access some burnt areas because stands were burnt too close to each other and fire fighters had to destroy some of the stands to create roads for fire tenders to pass.

"We are on the scene within five minutes of a phone call. When we came here, almost all parts of the market were on fire. The challenge was that the market is made up of planks, cart boards and plastics.

There was so much wind blowing and stands are built too close to each other," said Mr Mulambo.
At around 05:00hrs this blogger arrived at the scene, marketeers were found wailing and watching helplessly as their goods went up in flames.

"Iam going to suffer. All my goods have been burnt and i do not know how i will find money to pay for the school fees for my children,"shouted Cecilia Chitafu as she cried.

Ndola Mayor Amon Chisenga, who was on site at the time, expressed regret over the fire incident.
He disclosed that from preliminary assesments, over 3,000 marketeers have lost their goods.

"How the fire started, we do not know because there are too many versions. So we are leaving everything in the hands of the Police to investigate and give us a report," said Mr Chisenga.

Meanwhile, Police have arrested a 30 year old resident of Kabushi who is suspected of being behind the fire.

Copperbelt Police Commissioner Charity Katanga says the suspect has been charged with the offence of Criminal Recklessness and Negligence which is centrally to Section 237 (C) Chapter 87 of the laws of Zambia.
Copperbelt Police Chief Charity Katanga (left) with
Luanshya Mayor Nathan Chanda inspecting the
 damage caused by fire at Kapalala Market yesterday

Ms Katanga says the suspect, whose name has been withheld for security reasons, confessed how he lit a brazier which later exploded and spread the fire to other stands.

She has disclosed that the suspect took Police officers to the scene and demonstrated how the brazier he was using spread the fire.

"We have concluded without any reasonable doubt that the man we have arrested is the one behind the fire. He confessed having lit the brazier and even demonstrated how it exploded, spreading the fire all over," said Ms Katanga.

The unidentified man is currently in Police custody and is expected to appear in court today.

Ms Katanga says a further 12 people have been arrested for looting goods at the market.

She says the suspects were spotted stealing goods and transporting them to their homes.

Two marketeers are currently battling for their lives in hospitals following the fire.

A man, who Police have only identified as Francis, threw himself in the fire in a bid to commit suicide and suffered 100% burns.

And a woman who could not hold herself when she saw her stand go up in flames, collapsed and lost consciousness.

Kapalala Market is believed to be the largest market in Ndola.

At its peak,  about 6,000 trade at the market which is located in Masala area of Kabushi Constituency.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Mopani Copper Mines Loses $30 Million In 10 Day Power Dispute

Mopani Copper Mines  Corporate Head offices in Kitwe
By Paul Shalala

Mopani Copper Mines, a unit of Glencore,  has in the past 10 days reportedly lost about US$30 million in a power dispute which has forced it to suspend operations and send its thousands of workers home.

On August 11, the Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC), the sole distributor of electricity to Zambia’s mines, started restricting power to Mopani after the firm refused to  pay the revised electricity tariffs.

Zambia is Africa's second largest producer of copper.

CEC is a private company and it does not produce its own power.

It buys it from Zesco, a state owned company and later sales it to the mines.

Zesco and CEC arrived at the new tariff after protracted talks.

The new tariff now costs mining companies 9.3 US cents per kilowatt hour.

And the restriction of power from the required 190 megawatts to 94 megawatts means that the company, which operates two copper mines and smelters in the mining towns of Kitwe and Mufulira, can no longer send miners underground.

This has also threatened the economy of the two towns which rely heavily on MCM for jobs and business.

The Nkana and Mufulira mines have been in operation since the 1930s.

“Mopani Copper Mines has rejected the industry-wide tariff increment and sought to continue to pay for the electricity they consume at the old tariff. Given that it is already eight months since the new tariff was implemented, outstanding amounts due from MCM have escalated and it has become unsustainable for the utilities (CEC and ZESCO) to continue supplying MCM with their full power requirements. Under the circumstances, CEC has been left with no option but to restrict power supply to MCM to a level commensurate with the monthly payments that MCM continues to make to CEC,” said CEC Senior Manager for Corporate Communications said in a press statement to this blogger.

Ms Nsabika said CEC was still open for talks to diffuse the standoff which has now entered day 10.

“CEC wishes to highlight that it is saddened by this very unfortunate situation and hopes that the two Managements of CEC and MCM will work together to conclusively resolve this standoff. In this regard, CEC will continue to engage with MCM with a view to finding a negotiated solution within the shortest possible time.”

But Mopani has cried foul that the matter involving the revised electricity tariffs is in court and there was no need for CEC to restrict power.

Despite other mining houses paying the revised tariffs, Mopani has refused.

The firm has since asked the Kitwe High Court to interpret the power agreement the mining firm has with CEC.

“Despite an injunction being granted by the Courts of law on Friday, 11th August 2017, power has not yet been restored to our assets. This relates to the implementation of new electricity tariffs, which Mopani and other mining companies have contested in court and the courts of law are yet to resolve the matter. While awaiting the determination of the matter in court, Mopani Copper Mines Plc has continued to consistently pay the tariffs as stipulated in the existing legal contract with CEC,” said Mopani Copper Mines Public Relations Manager Nebert Mulenga a day after the restriction of power was implemented.

But 10 days later, the standoff is still on and thousands of miners are still not reporting for work.

Energy Minister David Mabumba this morning met management from both CEC and MCM in Kitwe to try and pacify the situation.

He later emerged from the meeting with a 24 hour ultimatum to the two firms to resolve their differences.

“Today’s meeting with Mopani was to resolve some of the outstanding issues regarding the 9.3 cents or the increase in the power tariff. I wanted to conclude the negotiations today and I have told them to give me the answer before close of business today. As far as Mopani is concerned, they are losing about $3 million per day,” said Mr Mabumba when he addressed reporters.

The Minister was accompanied to the meeting by Copperbelt Minister Bowman Lusambo and the Mayors and District Commissioners of Kitwe and Mufulira.

But by sunset, there was still silence on the talks between the two sides.

And stakeholders are concerned that the standoff will result in job losses.

Mine Workers Union of Zambia General Secretary Joseph Chewe has called on the mining firm and CEC to amicably resolve their dispute and avoid escalating the situation.

“We have just come from two years of retrenchments, we do not want to see our miners losing  jobs. Let CEC and Mopani dialogue and resolve this matter,” said Mr Chewe in an interview.

And Association of Mine Suppliers and Contractors President Augustine Mubanga says the restriction of power to Mopani Copper Mines has a possibility of affecting the overall performance of the mining industry.

“This issue must be resolved quickly because Mopani Copper Mines is a huge investor whose lack of production can affect Zambia's Gross Domestic Product,” said Mr Mubanga.

He adds that some of his members are no longer able to deliver their goods and services to Mopani since the firm shut down operations.

In May, Zambia's Energy Regulations Board raised domestic electricity tariffs.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Nine Years in Journalism: How Bright Mukwasa Changed My Life

The author with Bright Mukwasa
at ZNBC Mass Media Complex
in 2014
By Paul Shalala
Sometimes, people's lives are changed by people who never know that the actions they are taking are historical.
Nine years ago, I received a phone call which changed my life forever.
Bright Mukwasa, a close friend of mine and classmate at Evelyn Hone College from 2005 to 2008 made a phone call in July 2008 with an offer for me to join a newly established newspaper called the New Vision.
At the time I was unemployed and living with my elder sister Nawa Shalala Mwale (now Dr) and her husband Humphrey Kasiya Mwale (I prefer calling him my big brother) in Minestone, Lusaka.
I accepted Bright's offer and joined the small newsroom which was located in the dusty Soweto area just near Uniturtle Industries and PG Glass.
In those humble days, we would sometimes walk to assignments and back to the newsroom to write stories and that wasn't a bother to me because where I grew up in Mumbwa I was used to walk many kilometers to play or watch inter school games in nearby villages.
The New Vision Newspaper gave me the big break into the media, I rose through the ranks to News Editor but before that, Bright had left for the Post Newspaper.
I later left for MUVI Televison where i spent two years.
In July 2012, Bright and I again met at ZNBC Mass Media Complex and we attended job interviews.
Three months later, the national broadcaster gave us jobs and today we proudly serve the nation together.
My story in the last nine years has been great: I have won two international media awards, five local media awards, I have travelled and covered news in Asia, Europe, North America and throughout Africa, oh plus meeting President Barack Obama hehehe.
This success is all because of BRIGHT MUKWASA the man I fondly call CARLOS CARDOSO.
Paul receives the second prize for the Africa Fact Checking
Media Award from Peter Cunliffe-Jones of Africa in
Nairobi, Kenya in November, 2014
Am writing a full article about people who have impacted my small journalism career but Bright stands out, he gave me a good start.
The article will have paragraphs featuring my mentors like Costa Mwansa, Mabvuto PhiriYvette Tembo ChandaKennedy BwalyaBrian MwaleBrenda Nglazi ZuluRay MwareyaCollins Mtika and Chansa Mayani who have had a positive impact on how I do my job.
I pray God should continues to bless Bright and make him a blessing to many more people.
Bembas say: "Uwakwensha ubushiku bamutasha elyo bwacha" (when a person drives you at night, you must appreciate them at day break).
Lesa amipale ba Cardoso, epashili bakuleka (God bless you Cardoso, continue with your good work)!!!!!!

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Zambian Activists Launch ‘Team No Shame About HIV+’ Campaign

Some of the activists who are part of the campaign
  -Photos by Rise Up To HIV
By Paul Shalala

Over a dozen Zambian youths living with HIV and those who are passionate about fighting the spread of the virus have taken to social media to launch a campaign dubbed ‘Team No Shame About HIV+.’

The youths aim to raise awareness about their HIV status and inspire others to come out in the open and live positive lives.

In a country where being HIV positive is sometimes associated with bad behaviour, these activists want to inspire others to defy stigma and walk with their heads high.

The ‘No Shame About Being HIV+’ campaign is using personal stories from HIV activists wearing t-shirts with the message No Shame About HIV+.

The activists occasionally wear the t-shirts without feeling any shame and to them, this is one way of fighting the stigma attached to HIV.

Benjamin: The lead advocate

The activists promote the social media campaign using framed photos created by US-based activist Kevin Maloney.

“Kevin is the one who inspired us to come up with the T-shirt campaign just as they are doing in the USA. The other message we are trying to use as a campaign is the U=U meaning Undetectable = Untransmittable). This is aimed at encouraging HIV positive people to do their viral load tests and not just thinking about their CD4. We are doing both campaingns using social media in collaboration with Rise Up To HIV,” said Benjamin Sakala, the activist spearheading the campaign.

42 year old Benjamin has been HIV+ since 2007 and he occasionally posts messages of encouragement to people living with HIV on his Facebook page.

“I'm not a Hero, I just face reality head-on. The fact is HIV lives with me but no virus is in control of my life. The fight continues, Together We Can! I belong to ‘Team No Shame About Being HIV+,’ One story, One T-shirt at a time,” reads one of Benjamin’s recent status when he launched the campaign on Facebook.

Benjamin Sakala
Benjamin has an interesting story.

He started his advocacy a long time ago and on the way, dozens of other people living with HIV have joined him.

“My journey with HIV began in September 2007 to be precise after having unprotected sex with my partner. I later discovered she was living with HIV but deliberately decided to conceal that information. I’m not here to compete with anyone but to just add my voice and also encourage someone out there still failing to cope with the reality of living with HIV,” he says.

He was born on 7th July 1975. 

He was married and had two children but he legally divorced in 2015 after being separated from his wife and kids for over 8 years.

After being told of his HIV status in 2007, Benjamin became an advocate on social media.

He embarked on a special crusade using social media to share his story.

“As at today, i don't really know how stigma feels because I have never experienced it. My life with HIV is an open book which I freely share with thousands every year. My encouragement to those still failing to come out in the open due to shame, stigma, fear and denial is please find someone you can confide in. Besides, you are not the first or the last one.”

Precious: The activist who once opted for suicide

Another activist who is part of the ‘Team No Shame About HIV+’ campaign is 24 year old Precious Kaniki, the youngest among the activists.

She is a social worker by profession who spent the years 2013 and 2014 studying at the Evelyn Hone College in Lusaka while in denial of her HIV status.

She currently works for AIDS Healthcare Foundation as an HIV Medic and Youth Coordinator.

Precious got aware of the status at a tender age and at some point she was contemplating suicide.

Precious Kaniki
She shares her story below.

“Am a young lady living with HIV, I got to know I was positive in my 9th grade. I got sick from that time and I even got used to it but when I came to know my status I wanted to end my life.
I saw no future for my life, my dream of becoming an electro engineering was shattered, I thought living my life was useless. Life was a toy to me as all my dreams were seen as a total failure. Much worse I was in denial resulting in my personal, spiritual and academic life being impacted negatively,” said Precious.

She says for seven years, she refused to accept her HIV status.

When she passed her Grade eight examinations, she went to Grade ten where she was put in a Pure Sciences class.

She explains that while in that class, she saw no need for her to study hard as she expected herself to die before completing Grade 12.

“With that thinking, I stopped studying. The only time I was studying is when the teachers were teaching. I stopped taking my drugs, I only took them when I started having a cough or getting sick, at one point my CD4 count reached 19. I was the happiest girl because I thought only 18 counts to go and I will be no more.”

A turning point in Precious’ life came in 2014 when she lost too much weight and weighed a meagre 35 kilograms.

She says at that time, she did not pray to die but to recover to make her parents proud by passing her Social Work program she was studying.

On a lighter note, Precious is dating and she adds: "My man is actually HIV negative."

Alintula Nakawala
“Am happy to say I fully live my life now without being ashamed of being HIV positive, I know someone would want to know how I became positive. That doesn't matter, what matters is how I live my positive life moreover we won't go back 10 years ago and change the circumstance that led me to became positive. I always keep my promise to adhere to my drugs and put a smile on my face in any situation am in. Know your status, better knowing than not knowing,” said Precious.

Traditional practice gone wrong

One of the youngest members of the ‘Team No Shame About HIV+’ is 26 year old Alintula Nakawala who has been on HIV treatment for the past 14 years.

Alintula was born in a family of three but now she is the only one surviving having lost all her siblings and parents.

Her father past away in 1993 and her mother followed in 2006.

“I have lived a life of rejection, discrimination and stigma but I still manage to walk with my head high because am not ashamed of who I am. Living with HIV has been a challenge I have accepted because I can't change it but I can fight it,” said Alintula.

She says she got the HIV virus through a tradition practice performed by her aunt.

“I got infected by my aunt through tattooing. She was told to put her menstrual blood which she did on me without knowing that she was HIV positive. I was just a young girl by then, some where around the age of eightoro nine.”

Reverend Bweupe: A clergyman with a mission of saving others from HIV

Reverend Stuart Bweupe
Another activist in the campaign is Staurt Bweupe, a 49 year old Reverend in the Anglican Church.

Reverend Bweupe has a sad story which i broke on this blog two years ago.

His aim in coming out open about his status is to inspire other clergymen who are living with HIV to live positively.

"Am not happy to be HIV+, I have suffered but am alive by the Grace of God," reads a recent status on Reverend Bweupe's Facebook page.

His coming out open was not easy as he suffered stigma from his close friends, relatives and fellow church leaders.

At one point, he was blocked from conducting Sunday services in church as the church leadership debated what to do with him following his public disclosure.

But over the years, he has risen above negativity and now presides over his congregation in Kabwe without opposition.

Brenda: My husband hid his HIV status from me

Another activist with an unfortunate story is 43 year old Brenda Musenga.

Brenda Musenga
She has been living with HIV for over nine years now but she fully accepts her status and uses it to fight stigma.

“I’m stigma proof. I was a virgin the time i got married and we used to go for Voluntary Counselling and Testing with my husband every after three months and always the results were negative. But the time my hubby found out he was HIV positive, he stopped me from testing. Without me knowing, he was put on medication and when I came across the medicine one day, he told me it was for energy,” said Brenda in an interview.

Brenda says in June 2007, a few months after she saw her husband’s medication, she secretly went for VCT and her results came out positive.

She says life was not easy for her.

“In the first few months, it was not easy for me to disclose even to my family. I went through shame and today am a living testimony. I go out in the community and help children, women and youths living with the virus. I also started a support group and we basically focus on HIV issues.”

Brenda says her husband was living in denial and he stopped taking anti-retro viral drugs leading to complications.

Unfortunately, he died in March 2008, leaving her with her own three children and a fourth one he fathered outside of wedlock.

“I have passed through rejection which is still happening up to now. This has really made me strong and I continue to stand up and fight HIV,” said Brenda.

Through these touching stories on social media, these HIV activists hope to fight stigma and 'free' more people living with HIV from living in denial.

The 'Team No Shame About HIV+' campaign is also beefed up by other youths who do not live with the HIV virus.

These are Zambian youths who have a heart for an AIDS free society and go as far as they can to spread the news for positive living among those who deny their HIV status.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Zambezi: A Town Divided On Ethnic Lines

A ZNBC Cameraman Kashete Sinyangwe getting an aerial
 view of the Zambezi river in Zambezi town
By Paul Shalala in Zambezi

There are very few places in Zambia with such a spectacular view of the Zambezi river.

Zambezi town in the North Western province is a possible tourist destination due to its location.

The river passes through the town and divides it into two.

This division is also seen in terms of language and culture.

The west bank of the town is predominantly Luvale speaking while in the east bank, people speak Lunda.

The district has two rival chiefs who do not see eye to eye.

In the west resides Senior Chief Ndungu of the Luvales while on the east bank is Senior Chief Ishindi of the Lundas.

Over the years, there has been problems with the dominance of these tribes on either side of the Zambezi.

These divisions have also entered the church, an unlikely place where most people would think tribalism can not be practiced.

Fr Haaninga on the Chinyingi bridge
which connects Zambezi east to Zambezi west 
At the moment, the Catholic Church in the area is caught up in this dilemma.

For example Our Lady of Fatima Parish, which is located in the middle of town, holds separate services for Lundas and Luvales.

Father Noel Haaninga overseas Zambezi District and he explains the challenges he goes through in bringing the two tribes together.

"I superintend over 29 churches in Zambezi and there are certain areas where certain songs from this other side of the tribe are not allowed to be sung in church and vice versa. Even at the boma church were am based, you are able to see tension even on small issues like choosing church leaders, people would want to have their own to lead the church," said Father Haaninga who has been based at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Zambezi for the past six and half years.

Because of this tension in the church, Father Haaninga says he is forced to conduct two separate services for the two tribes as a way of accommodating them.

"We are now forced to conduct two separate services one for the Lundas and the following week one for the Luvales. Even when we do so, the day we conduct a Lunda mass, the Luvales will be few and they will not be active during mass. And when its the turn for the Luvale mass, the Lundas will be few and they wont be active. Now you wonder what the solution is for these people," revealed Father Haaninga.

In schools, there is still a division in the delivery of education services.

According to the school curriculum in Zambia, each district is supposed to adopt one local language for pupils from Grade one to four.

However, in Zambezi, pupils in the west bank are taught in Luvale, while in the east bank are taught in Lunda.
Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Parish in Zambezi

In the town area where there is a high concentration of both tribes, English is the language of instruction in primary schools.

"I was the first District Commissioner under the Patriotic Front Government in 2011. We had found that the schools in Zambezi were being taught in three languages: on the east bank it is Lunda and English. On the west bank its Luvale and English. Thats the same process we are following upto today because thats what government has set up as zonal language," said Lawrence Kayumba who is the District Commissioner in Zambezi.

A few years ago before this policy was introduced, local media reported that one female teacher was assaulted by Grade One pupils when she taught them in a rival language which they termed offensive.

This forced authorities in the town to close the school and classes only resumed after tensions where calmed following the zoning of the entire district into the three languages of instruction.

Rodgers Sakuwuka is a former Zambezi Member of Parliament and understands the challenges in this town.

He shades more light on the history of this tribal tension which dates back to Zambia's pre-independence era.

"There was a white District Commissioner during the British rule here in Zambezi and i think his name was Lawrence. That man used to play what we call divide and rule. Whenever Senior Chief Ishindi came to his office, he would find his portrait stuck on the wall. When Senior Chief Ndungu also goes to his office, Mr Lawrence would remove the portrait for Senior Chief Ishindi and place that for Senior Chief Ndungu. That is the genesis of divide and rule," said Mr Sakuwuka who also served as Zambia's first Tourism Minister and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly.

Mr Kayumba (in blue suit) and Mr Sakuwuka (right)
He however says there is need for both the Luvales and the Lundas to co-exist since they inhabit the same territory.

"Since you came to Zambezi, have you seen Lundas physically fighting the Luvales? Have you seen separate shops for Lundas and others for Luvales? All am saying is colleagues, lets avoid this issue of divide and rule. Lets avoid escalating the situation."

In terms of politics, Zambezi is divided into two separate constituencies and the boundary is the Zambezi river.

However,  the whole area is governed as one district.

Despite all this, Zambezi is a lively town.

People here go on with their normal lives despite the divide in their ethnicity.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

How Two Lepers Found Love And Raised A Family In A Hospital

Kenneth, his wife Grace and their grandchildren sitting
outside their one roomed house at the Leprosarium
By Paul Shalala in Zambezi

Some stories are very sad.

But sad as they maybe, they have a happy tinge in them.

The story of 86 year old Kenneth Samanenga and his wife Grace Kachana 76, is one of these.

Their story is an old one.

They met here at Chitokoloki leprosarium in Zambezi District in the North Western Province.

Both were patients as lepers and they found love at the hospital despite their affliction.

Kenneth came to the leprosarium as a single man in 1952.

He lived here until he was treated.

When he was discharged, Kenneth found that he had nowhere to go.

Family members he had left in the village had moved elsewhere and those that remained did not want to have anything to do with him.

Finding himself with no place to go, Samanenga returned to the leprosarium.

Like many lepers who are healed, the disease had left its mark: he lost his toes and fingers.

And meeting Grace was a blessing in disguise.

“We got married in 1978 and God has blessed us with children and grand children. We live here with all of them. This is our home,” said the smiling Kenneth.

His wife also has her version of the story.

“I was born in 1941 and I came for help here at the leprosarium in 1952. We got married and we now keep our children and their children here. I love my husband and we live happily,” said Grace.

The two have been married for the past 39 years.......years happily spent here at the leprosarium.

Two of their children and their five grand children also live here.

The leprosarium at Chitokoloki is a busy place.

In fact it is more than a leprosarium – it is a colony.

There are 150 houses specifically built for lepers.

This is perhaps the biggest and oldest leprosarium in the country.

The only other known leprosy centers in Zambia are at Liteta in Chibombo District and at Ibenga in Masaiti District.

The leprosarium at Chitokoloki is said to have been started by missionaries Suckling and Thomas Hansen around 1928.

Despite having no medical background Suckling and Thomas carried to the best of their abilities, providing drugs, food and clothing to their patients.

According to historical records, the history of this place is closely tied to Dr. James Worsfold who pioneered leprosy work in Chikoloki in the 1940’s.

Today, the leprosarium is more of a place of refuge for many who are now unable to return home.

Some of the oldest residents here do not even want to go back home.

They prefer to continue living here.

“I have spent many years here. They keep us well and I do not want to go back home. Am comfortable just here,” said one of the lepers in an interview.

And some people, who are attending to patients at the hospital, also occupy some of these houses meant for lepers.

Thankfully today, the number of leprosy patients has gone down drastically.

Only the likes of Kenneth and Grace who have only known this life here for the major part of their lives now remain.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was first produced as a documentary and it was aired on TV1's Morning Live program on 08 June 2017 and it can be watched here.