Tuesday, 19 December 2017

From Mumbwa Villager To Award Winning International Journalist

Paul poses with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres
By Paul Shalala in New York

Ask any Zambian about the word Mumbwa, the answer they will give you will have something to do with backwardness, under development, primitivity or illiteracy.

For decades, my hometown Mumbwa in Central Province has been a laughing stoke countrywide.

There is a common phrase in the country that any person who shows signs of being primitive is a Mumbwa-Mumbwa.

But where does this derogatory term Mumbwa-Mumbwa come from?

In the 1990s, the 152 kilometres Mumbwa - Lusaka road was in a dilapidated state.

People on public transport could take 4 hours to reach the capital city.

The road had huge potholes, diversions and all sorts of things.

By the time someone reaches Lusaka, the whole body would be painted brown with dust.

This is what made most people identify Mumbwa residents when they walked the streets of Cairo, Lumumba, Cha Cha Cha or Freedom way.

"Uyu achoka ku Mumbwa, namuonela che ku lukungu patupi," (This one is coming from Mumbwa, I can tell from the dust on his body).

This is how residents of my agricultural town were given this funny name and to date, people still think Mumbwa is backward but alas we have moved on.

Today we comfortably drive only one hour from Lusaka and you are in Mumbwa.

Mumbwa is my home town, dad was transferred there in 1967 to open schools and he has lived there since then.

Initially, he was a Head Master at Lusaka Girls School which is located along Chikwa road.

I was born at the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka on 29 August 1984 but I grew up in Nangoma area of Mumbwa.



Mumbwa: Where the journalism dream was born

My journey to journalism started like an accident.

As a boy growing up in Lubanze village, I was always attracted to the many fighter jets which used to fly over our farm.

My village is just a few kilometres away from Mumbwa Air Force base where fighter pilots occasionally train in our airspace.

In the 1990s, it was common to see Zambia Air Force planes do aerial acrobatics and military manoeuvres in the sky.

The way those planes did summersaults and all sorts of moves, made me develop interest in aviation.

I grew up hoping to become a pilot.

In those days, my father Namasiku Kamuti Shalala had an ITT Radio (Dot Com babies don't know it) and we used to listen to it every time we went to look after cattle in the bush.

Dad was so updated with news that he never used to miss any single news bulletin on the BBC World Service, the international radio channel of the London based media conglomerate.

His favourite radio program was BBC Focus on Africa which was in those days presented by among others, Kenyan journalist Joseph Warungu.

Every time the montage for Focus on Africa would ring at 3pm, 5pm or 7pm GMT, I would rush to dad and tell him: "Tate, kinako yamakande." (Dad its time for news).

I started living the life my father led, I knew all the Sola Odunfas, Umaru Fofanas, Tidiane Sys, Elizabeth Ohenes and many other BBC Africa personalities of those days.

Fortunately, i met Umaru Fofana in Turkey in 2011, Joseph Warungu in Kenya in 2013 and Tidiane Sy in South Africa in 2016.

And Every time i met these people, I took photos with them and showed them to dad and he would feel great.

With time, I grew interest in journalism.

Dad would repeatedly tell me: "Mwanake, njiubata kuba nizibo, akubale." (My son if you want to be intelligent, read."

Dad had a big library of newspapers and books, I used to read like I don't know.

I researched on many things to an extent where when i reached Grade seven, I knew all capital cities in Africa and all Presidents on the continent.

Because of this interest I was developing, dad started calling me "Bo editor" not knowing that one day i would become a journalist.

To date, dad still calls me Bo Editor whenever I visit him at the village.

When i finished Grade 12, I decided to abandon my childhood career of becoming a pilot and ended up choosing journalism.

When i picked my Grade 12 results, I got 10 points and my siblings insisted I do law.

However,  I refused and enrolled at Evelyn Hone College in Lusaka in 2005 and did the three year Journalism Diploma.

I remember in one of the Basic Reporting classes facilitated by my mentor Douglas Hampande, he asked the whole class to explain the history behind the decades old Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

I raised my hand and he asked me to explain.

I went like: "Sir, in 70 AD, the Romans captured Jerusalem and expelled the Jews from the Holyland. The Jews then got scattered worldwide........"

Before I could finish my answer, Mr Hampande asked me to start explaining from 1948 when the Jews declared the State of Israel.

In short, my answer to this question was a demonstration of how I had done too much research in Mumbwa to a point where I had too much data on almost every issue of interest.

After leaving college in 2007, I lived with my elder sister Nawa (now Dr. Nawa Shalala Mwale) and her husband Mr Humphrey Mwale in Handsworth.

In 2008, a former college mate of mine Bright Mukwasa phoned me somewhere in July and offered me a job at a newly opened weekly newspaper called the New Vision.

The paper had just been opened and one of the people behind it was Webster Malido, a former Post Newspapers editor.

I worked there for almost two years and learnt alot from the colleagues especially that we had meagre resources and sometimes we would walk to assignments and back to the newsroom which was in Soweto area of Lusaka.

Despite all these challenges, the paper grow to become a bi-weekly and finally a daily newspaper.

From there, I joined MUVI Television in March 2010.

Before that, MUVI Television General Manager Costa Mwansa had been reorganizing the newsroom and wanted some people who would beef up the political desk.
Paul Shalala and Costa Mwansa earlier this year

"Young man I remember how you used to analyse local and international news at college, can't you join us at MUVI TV? I need you," read an e-mail Mr Mwansa sent me in February 2010.

I accepted the offer and joined the privately owned TV and thats how my journalism career boomed.

I worked at MUVI Television for two years and during that time, I literally went to every corner of this country covering politics especially the 2011 general elections in some by-elections.

It is in those days when I covered the opposition leader Michael Sata extensively and learnt most of his Bemba proverbs which he used to churn out at rallies.

At MUVI Television, I had a chance to study politics and governance in Germany for three months and became a permanent analyst (political commentator) on the flagship MUVI Television breakfast show Sunrise.

This show made me an instant celebrity as I used to speak my mind without fear or favour, analysed politics and coincidentally i was a student of Political Science at the University of Zambia at the time.

I won many hearts of people on that show were Costa Mwansa would moderate  and I would seat and debate various issues with another mentor of mine Mabvuto Phiri.

In 2012, I resigned from MUVI Television and went into freelance practice for six months before joining my current employer the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC).

It is at ZNBC where this boy of Mumbwa has made his greatest impact on the journalism career locally and abroad.

While working at TV2 in September 2013, my boss Yvette Tembo (now Mrs Chanda), allowed me to spend three weeks in Mazabuka and Solwezi to investigate the impact of mining on small holder farmers.

The story was aired on the TV2 Morning Live program and it made me a finalist for the 2013 Africa Story Challenge Media Awards which were held in Ethiopia that year.

During the story camp for all 20 finalists in the lakeside town of Naivasha in Kenya, I had the opportunity of meeting Joseph Warungu and Maimouna Jallow, the two people I used to hear on BBC when i was a boy in Mumbwa.

The following year, the same story won me the Second Prize during the  2014 Africa Fact Checking Media Awards in Nairobi, Kenya.

Since then, this former cattle herder from Mumbwa has travelled the world, spoke at conferences and in August 2016 had an opportunity to seat 3 meters away from then US President Barack Obama when he addressed the Mandela Washington Fellows in Washington DC.

The UNCA Media Award

In January this year, my assignments editor Chansa Mayani sent me to Kabwe to cover Central Province Permanent Secretary Chanda Kabwe as he toured the many fields which were affected by the Army worms.

After the assignment, we decided to sleep since the tour ended late that day.

Before we could start off for Kitwe the following day, the Permanent Secretary phoned me saying: "Press Aide (that's what he calls me), the World Bank Country Manager is coming to pay a courtesy call on me, please cover it before you go back to the Copperbelt."

I covered the event and after World Bank Country Manager Ina-Marlene Ruthenberg explained how the World Bank was to implement the US $65 million Zambia Mining Environmental and Remediation Project, I decided to film a number of shots of the old Kabwe mine and some townships to show the impact of lead poisoning.

I returned to my base in Kitwe and my editor Chansa Mayani told me the story was not as simple as I thought it was.

"Young man this is an international story. Go to Chingola, Mufulira and film people who are affected. Get the real voices of the victims of mining pollution and lets make a feature story for Morning Live," she said.

I followed her advise and filmed people in Shimulala area of Chingola who were affected by pollution.

The story aired a few days later and when the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) called for entries for their annual media awards earlier this year, I did not hesitate to enter.

Despite having entered for the same awards in 2016 and being unsuccessful, i remembered what my boss Chansa had told me and I entered the pollution story.

On Friday, I received the 2017 Ricardo Ortega Memorial Prize in Broadcast Media from United Nations Secretary General Antonio Gueterres during the UNCA Media Awards in New York.

This is the biggest media award in my career, bigger than the two previous international and four national media awards I won in the past four years.

Who would have thought that a former cattle herder from Mumbwa would one day travel to the USA, shake hands with the UN Chief, collect an international media award?

Who ever thought a Mumbwa-Mumbwa would be awarded at the same ceremony with celebrated Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie who was given the UNCA Global Citizen Award for her efforts to protect women and children in conflict zones?

No one ever thought a this former village boy who would every day walk on foot to school and back would one day compete in an international journalism competition and beat journalists from renowned international media institutions.

In short, life has many opportunities and God uplifts even the simplest people in society.


Conclusion

I believe God is not yet done with me, more is yet to come.

Today as I write this article from the 14th floor of the 1,700 bed capacity Pennysylvania Hotel in New York, I shed tears because I think I do not deserve the accolades am receiving on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, WhatsApp and everywhere.

The person who deserves this is my 80-something old father at the village in Mumbwa.

This is the man behind this media award.

He is the one who made me a journalist accidentally, he groomed me to where iam today.

In those days, I used to look up to many journalists and i would imitate them reading news or reporting while seated alone in our grass thatched house.

But like Zambia's award winning rapper B Flow likes saying: "We used to admire but now we inspire."

And like 2015 Junior President Winner Perrykent Nkole once said, "God can raise someone from Grass to Grace."

Today I want to inspire someone who is reading this, do not give up on your dreams, God will uplift you, do your part and God will do the rest.

When the United Nations Correspondents Association informed me that I had won the 2017 Ricardo Ortega Memorial Prize in Broadcast Media in the Bronze category, I almost gave up when I read the part where they said they could not give me accomodation and an air ticket to attend the ceremony in New York.

Luckily, without my knowledge, ZNBC Management had already sat and voted to sponsor my trip.

Three weeks ago when i went to see ZNBC Director General Richard Mwanza with a letter requesting for sponsorship, he smiled and told me they were miles ahead of me.

Coincidentally, the World Bank Country Office when they heard that my story on their work in Zambia won that prestigious media award, they too came on board and bought the air ticket before ZNBC could do so (what a double blessing).

On Wednesday i flew into the JFK International Airport in New York on a plane paid for by the World Bank.

And on Friday evening in New York, I was dining with diplomats, celebrities like Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie, American comedian Jordan Klepper and multi-award winning journalists because ZNBC gave me a free platform for that pollution story to air.

ZNBC released resources and made sure I got a visa so that I don't miss the awards ceremony.

Bembas say "Uwakwensha ubushiku bamutasha elyo bwacha" meaning when someone drives you overnight, you must say thanks to them at dawn.

Likewise, the Tongas say "Leza napaa talizyi mijinchi" which means, when God blesses you, you will not hear his foot steps.

In this vein, I wish to thank ZNBC management, my bosses and colleagues like Mr Kelly Chubili (he passed the script), Chansa Mayani (who assigned me), Anderson Lungu (the video editor), Prince Chinene (who filmed the documentary) and John Zyambo who drove us to the spots where we filmed the documentary.

If I didn't personally thank the World Bank, ZNBC management and my colleagues in the newsroom, I would have fallen for another Bemba proverb which says "Ushitasha, mwana wandoshi (a person who doesn't appreciate is a child of a wizard."

As I ponder on the 16 hours non stop flight from New York to Johannesburg, I ask myself a simple question: what good can come out of Mumbwa?

The answer is miracles, Mumbwa is as good as any part of Zambia and this award is for every Zambian and we should all smile about it.

These smiles should overshadow the decades old "discrimination" of people like me from that area of the country who we jokingly call Ba Mumbwa-Mumbwa.

Mumbwa has risen from the alleged slumber and has today conquered the world, but does the name Mumbwa-Mumbwa still stand, the answer is a capital NOOOO.

23 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. I want use this opportunity to tell the world what has really happened to me for past few months, I have been married for two years without a child i was so worried, I have visited several hospitals and I was told i can't not conceive because i was having fibroid, I have been treated and even undergoes cloistral operation but still couldn't conceive until One day i came across Lillian Testimony on a guest book she was sharing the same problem exactly what is happening to me how Dr,,Miracle has cure his Fibroid, immediately i contacted him and told him about my Problem and he gave me hope that i should not be worried at all that he has cure more people already having same problem and said he can cure me under 8 weeks i was amaze. I Believe in him because he was the only hope and i followed him up he prepared me some herbs and send it to me in my state. I started using the herbs with his prescriptions, as i was taking the herbs i started noticing some changes in my body, to cut everything short i missed my period and today i have a child baby girl, My husband is so much happy and my mum too God. Thank you Dr,,Miracle I can't just keep this to my self i decided to share and post it here on-line for everyone to see that the work Of God In My Life True His Son Dr,,Miracle God Bless Doctor And More Grace To His Work, Email Him miraclespellhome@yahoo.com Call Or Whatsapp Him +2348071398555 ,,

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  2. Congratulations Paul Shalala!
    Am so inspired.

    ReplyDelete
  3. What an inspiring and uplifting story Paul. Many people especially our youth need your inspiration to pursue their dreams relentlessly. I am inspired and indeed it's hi 5 to the future

    ReplyDelete
  4. Replies
    1. Thanks alot mama. You are part of this success

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  5. the best article a have read in a long time

    ReplyDelete
  6. Congrats
    Paul shalala
    You an inspiration to young ones and upcoming journalist
    To work hard with passion

    ReplyDelete
  7. Congrats my guy, you are an inspiration to the younger generation.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Very inspiring brother Paul.. Thumbs up.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Good I came across this good and inspiring post,May Jehovah bless you even more our dear brother

    ReplyDelete
  10. I want use this opportunity to tell the world what has really happened to me for past few months, I have been married for two years without a child i was so worried, I have visited several hospitals and I was told i can't not conceive because i was having fibroid, I have been treated and even undergoes cloistral operation but still couldn't conceive until One day i came across Lillian Testimony on a guest book she was sharing the same problem exactly what is happening to me how Dr,,Miracle has cure his Fibroid, immediately i contacted him and told him about my Problem and he gave me hope that i should not be worried at all that he has cure more people already having same problem and said he can cure me under 8 weeks i was amaze. I Believe in him because he was the only hope and i followed him up he prepared me some herbs and send it to me in my state. I started using the herbs with his prescriptions, as i was taking the herbs i started noticing some changes in my body, to cut everything short i missed my period and today i have a child baby girl, My husband is so much happy and my mum too God. Thank you Dr,,Miracle I can't just keep this to my self i decided to share and post it here on-line for everyone to see that the work Of God In My Life True His Son Dr,,Miracle God Bless Doctor And More Grace To His Work, Email Him miraclespellhome@yahoo.com Call Or Whatsapp Him +2348071398555 ,,

    ReplyDelete