Saturday 30 December 2017

Young Farmers Series: Brian Hapunda Shares His Secrets

Brian Hapunda checking one of the harvested tomatoes
By Paul Shalala

In the first of a number of articles showcasing young, educated and successful Zambian youths who have ventured into farming, i profile Brian Hapunda, a young politician who has made it big in farming.

Brian is a lawyer by profession, a former students union leader at the University of Zambia and is currently a member of the ruling Patriotic Front's Media and Publicity Committee.

He previously served as PF Political Secretary for Southern Province during the late President Michael Sata's three year presidency and PF Media Director in 2015.

In this article, he puts aside politics and talks farming.

Farming as a Hobby

Brian says as he was growing up, he always wanted to venture into farming and he always told himself that one day he will  be a big farmer.

To realise that dream, four years ago, Brian embarked on his dream by utilising some traditional farm land, growing cash crops such as tomatoes and maize alongside goats.

"I always had the passion of growing food firstly to feed myself and later others and am happy through God and consistency coupled with an ever supporting wife who has become my farming partner, we are now living our dream. What seemed to be an impossible journey four to five years ago has now turned into a success farming story that I and my wife have taken seriously as an income venture for the family," he says.

He says through the farming business, he has created jobs, mostly for youths who work at the farm.

Below is a verbatim of Brian's story as posted on his Facebook page:

Brian with his wife Mwela in the field
Challenges in Farming for us

Like every business venture, we faced some challenges in our farming challenges and at some point I thought of giving up. I remember one of my Farming mentors and friend Dr Tamara Kaunda on a tour of our Farm said, "Patience & Consistency is what defines a farmer" as she encouraged me to continue growing our farming Business.

Farming too needs some stable capital injection on top of Land acquisition which in my view is the biggest challenge. We had to begin our activities on Traditional Farm land. We had no big monies but through prioritising & personal sacrifices, we were able to get started with our Tomato Farming.

Tomato Farming is a serious Cash crop venture but it is labour intensive aswel requires modern effective Irrigation System. All these entail saving resources and channeling it towards this goal. This was not easy and we achieved it over a very long period of time!


Farming requires Time and Patience. There is no "Remote Control" Farming. If one takes up serious Farming as an income Venture then you can not afford to be doing Remote Control Farming. You just have to create time for Farm work and fund yourself at the Farm/Fields doing Farm work.

Being a busy person myself as a Community Worker  (Politician) I had to balance up my time with Farming especially in the initial stages of our Farming actives.

Spending time at the Farm working with my Farm Labourers and monitoring works there helped me build a strong working relationship with my Team and also learn practicle Farming skills from them.

My spending time at the Farm also helped reduce Pilferage (stealing) by some untrustworthy Workers.

Brian interacting with one of his farm workers
Through my consistency time spending at the Farm,  I can now firmly we have set up "Systems" there to enhance our Farming activities/Works which is very vital in any business venture.

Stigma and Discouragements

I remember telling some friends of mine my intention  to take up Farming as a fulltime active and what their responses were. I must say out of 10, 2 would encourage me positively to persue Farming as an Income venture whilst majority of them would simply tell me off that, "why would I want to take up Farming as though i was an Old Man?"

Others would tell me that "Brian why would you want to put your Education to waste after having been to School?"

Worst still, I would get this stigma when I walk into a Social meeting with my friends & they would say, "there goes the Farmer" in a teasing way ofcourse!  Most of my friends/People were used to me as a  Communinity Worker (Politician if you like) and not as a Farmer!

The Stigma and Discouragements I got from certain People then almost made me give up my Farming  Dream and question myself if I was doing the right thing but I would tell myself again that I am going to do this not to please People but to discover my other Talent in Life that I can leave on.

I am glad that through Perseverance and Commitment, I have Discovered my other Talent in my Life which is Farming.

Government's Pronouncements to Diversify the Economy to Agriculture Anchored from Mining Anchored Economy

Planting tomato
I am pleased that the Government has come up with a Policy to begin to shift our Copper (Mining) based Economy to Agriculture based Economy as a way of growing the Economy bigger. This Pronouncement & Policy comes with quite alot of Positive favouritism to the Farming Community such as Subsidised Farming Inputs etc which Farmers can take advantage of.

However, through my Farming experience the Government needs to come up with a deliberate support mechanism to support Young People in Zambia wishing to venture into Farming and take up Farming as an Income Generating activity for themselves.

65% of Zambia's adult Population is made up of Young People below the age of 35 years. This means that Young People are Productive base of our Nation & if most Young People are encouraged to venture into Farming, it will make Zambia Food Secure & yet another Food Basket for our Region.

The Government must also ensure that Local Farmers are protected against foreign Farming outputs such as fresh vegetables, Fruits, Tomatoes, Potatoes etc for this kills Local Small Scale Cash Crop Farmers who have to compete with Multi International Farmers!

Young People wishing to go into Farming must be assisted to Acquire affordable Farming Land as land is a serious Capital in Agriculture Business.

It's high time that we also have a "Government Farmers Bank" whose role will be to help Identify Farming Talent, Finance Farmers and help them Grow as is the Case in Botswana, Senegal etc.

Words of Encouragement to fellow Young People

Fellow Young People as you turn into the new year 2018, focus on discovering your purpose on Earth, focus on discovering your Productive Talent on Earth and use it to create a Job and an Income for yourself!

Checking one of his tomato fields
You must aim to create multiple income sources for yourself. You must aim to become Financially Independent in 2018!

You must aim to network with People whom you can learn one or two Positives from!

Lastly, no matter how many times you have fallen down to the Ground in your Life you must not stop moving.  Simply get up clean/dust yourself & keep on moving for Patience & Consistency defines a VICTOR!

I am a Living Testimony of how many Times i have fallen to the Ground or made to fall to the Ground & i stood up to continue walking

Merry Christmas & a Prosperous New Year to you all

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.


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.

Friday 8 December 2017

Goree Island: From Slavery To The Promotion Of Reconciliation

Bloggers from 13 Anglophone and Francophone countries
board a ferry in Dakar en route to Goree island
- Pictures by Bruce Chooma, Paul Shalala and Brigitte Reed
By Paul Shalala on Goree Island, Senegal

It is a famous, or is it infamous, island which is well known for slavery, death, human suffering, sexual exploitation and inhuman behaviour.

Goree Island in Senegal is one of three centres where the African Slave Trade thrived. 

But Goree was the epicenter.

According to historical records, the tiny island, which is off the the coast of Dakar, was responsible for up to 20 million slaves who made their way to the Americas from the 1400s until slavery was abolished in the 1800s. 

Six million of those who passed through the island did not make it to the Americas, they died of starvation, disease and others were through overboard. 

But why was Goree chosen as the headquarters of the trans Atlantic Slave Trade?

"The island is at the western tip of Africa and it is positioned directly with the United States. Also, the island was surrounded by sharks, so slaves could not escape once they were brought to the slave houses," said Mamadou Sall, a tour guide who has spent the last two decades showing tourists the historical areas of the island.

Mr Sall. who shares the same surname with the Senegalese President Macky Sall,took a dozen bloggers from across the Africa on a tour of historical sites across the island.
Bloggers from Africa and KAS Media Africa Director
Christoph Plate pose for a photo at the Goree Institute

The bloggers from 13 Anglophone and Francophone countries were attending their annual two day #AfricaBlogging conference on the island under the auspices of the Johannesburg-based KAS Media Africa, a German non governmental organisation.

The island had 28 slave houses which housed thousands of slaves at any given time.

A visit to the only surviving slave house shows how cruel the treatment of the slaves was.

In a small room with little ventilation, 300 slaves would be held for up to three months as they waited for ships to arrive from America.

The outbreak of diseases and deaths were common on the island.

"There were occasional outbreak of diseases on this island. People used to die. Even on their way to America, some people would throw themselves in the ocean while others would actually be thrown by slave owners," said Alione Kabo, a government conservation curator who is based on Goree island.

In those years, the Slave Trade was conducted through batter system.

Slaved were bought using different kinds of goods depending on their body size and stamina.

According to historians, the most expensive slaves were the Yoruba speaking people of Nigeria who were said to have been very energetic and strong in working in the cotton fields.

In those days, slave owners would buy the whole family including parents and children.

"Sometimes, a whole family would be brought here on the island. They would be separated in the slave houses. When time to be shipped comes, the father would go to America, the mother to Brazil and the child to the Caribbean islands," added Mr Kabo.

However, small girls who were brought here suffered sexual exploitation.
A former slave house

According to Mr Kabo, there was an unwritten rule that slave owners had a right to have sex with small girls and once they got pregnant, they would earn their freedom back to the continent of Africa.

Despite its portrayal as a white man's activity, the African Slave Trade was actually done with the consent of African chiefs.

Some of these chiefs benefited a lot by selling their own subjects. 

And today, every visitor to Goree island does not miss the opportunity to visit what is commonly known as 'The Place of no return.'

Of the 28 slave houses on the island, only one remains in its original design and one famous door remains intact to teach the current generation of the past activities.

One door, which is still open today is believed to have been where millions of slaves passed to board ships to America.

Mr Kabo disclosed that: "In this door, any slave who passed through would never return to Africa. it was a gate way to slavery in America. Behind this door, ships docked to load hundreds of slaves at a go. We had sharks swimming around this area because some slaves used to risk swimming away."
Zambian blogger Bruce Chooma at the 'door of no return'

In 1992, Pope John Paul stood at 'The Door of no Return' and apologized for the role Catholic Missionaries played in the slave trade.

He also worshiped in one of the former slave houses which has now been transformed into a Catholic Church.

And in 2013, then United States President Barack Obama visited the island and gave an emotional speech encouraging the protection of human rights.

Since the 1444, Goree island has been ruled by the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French, the British and finally by the French again,

A huge canon with two huge barrels is a reminder of the battles of control fought by the European powers on the island.

Being an island, Goree depends on fish for its survival.

Many residents are fishermen.

Art is also another big business and a major tourist attraction. 

Wherever you go, you will find artifacts, paintings and all kinds of art.

Senegalese blogger Fanta Diallo (Right)
The abundance of sand makes the work for artists easier as they are able to mould or paint anything and sale to the millions of tourists who visit the island annually.

This industry has been in existence for hundreds of years.

Today, Goree island is a thriving community of 1, 200 residents 80 percent of whom are Muslims and the remainder being Christians.

"In Senegal, Christians and Muslims mingle easily. Here on Goree island, the majority of residents are muslims but interestingly, the Mayor is a christian and he is a prominent lawyer," said Fanta Diallo, a Senegalese blogger who is also an elected ward Councillor in the capital Dakar.

Despite its dark past, Goree has moved on and its residents live normal lives.

To preserve its past and promote reconciliation, stakeholders have formed the Goree Institute Center for Democracy, Development and Culture in Africa.

The institute engages various sectors of society and offers courses on democracy and how communities can co-exist.

"The Goree Institute does a lot of things. One of them is the promotion of democracy and reconciliation on the continent of Africa. Despite the history of slavery, we are using Goree as an example for reconcilition. We want to also promote democratic values," said Goree Institute Executive Director Doudou Dia.

As a way of putting the past behind, most slave houses have been transformed into different institutions.

For example, the island's only Medical School is a former slave house where thousands of slaves used to be held.

Every year, descendants of freed slaves from the Caribbean islands come to Goree to commemorate their liberation from slavery at this monument.
The Statue of Liberation on Goree Island

A huge statue has been erected where this event is usually held.

However, one would wonder why everywhere you focus your eyes on, everyone is walking.

Senegalese authorities have declared the island a 'No car area' in order to preserve its historical places and due to its small size.

But you can occasionally see donkeys pulling carts.

In the northern part of the island is a female secondary school which wa closed during our visit.

The school hosts some of the best 200 female pupils who are selected across Senegal and most of them proceed to prestigious universities such as Oxford and Havard.

Access to the island is provided by a boat which ferries people from the city of Dakar to Goree and vice versa.

The ferry is run under a Public Private Partnership and it moves between the island and Dakar for over six times a day.

As I left Goree island, I was reminded how fragile human life can be when those in authority do not respect the rights of those they lead.

For centuries to come, Goree island will continue being a symbol of death, sexual exploitation and cruelty against humanity.

But for those who seek peace and progress, Goree will also be a place where forgiveness and reconciliation can be found.

Friday 3 November 2017

Lake Kashiba: Bodies Of People Who Drown Never Recovered

Lake Kashiba in Mpongwe District - Pictures by Paul Shalala
By Paul Shalala in Mpongwe

From a distance, this body of water looks likes any other, ordinary and simple - but that is as far as the eye can see.

Beyond this is a legend, dipped in a folklore of myths that suggests more.

Though these waters appear normal and natural, there are stories shrouded in mystery about Lake Kashiba in Mpongwe District on the Copperbelt.

This stunning mass of water, holds stories that sound more stranger than fiction.

The lake sits on three point five hectares of land, surrounded by a forest and the area is now a national monument, protected by the National Heritage and Conservation Commission.

The lake is one of the three sunken lakes in Zambia made of limestone.

Government declared it a national monument in a statutory instrument issued in 1964.

The Lima speaking people of Chief Ngubeni inhabit this area.

The people believe that this lake is sacred and once one drowns, their bodies can never be recovered.

This is just one of those weird beliefs.

"People who drown here are never recovered. We have a recent case of a pupil who drowned and the body was never found. But people still risk, they swim often," said Mwewa, a local resident.

He claims that  according to local myths, the lake has no bottom and it is connected to oceans which makes it easy for bodies to swim away. 

This account of dead bodies not being recovered are shared by many.
Rodgers Kafupi, the caretaker
for Lake Kashiba

Rodgers Kafupi was born and raised here.

He is now 30 years old and is currently the caretaker of Lake Kashiba.

Rodgers recalls that in the past 10 years, three people, including a European tourist, have drowned in the lake and their bodies have never been found.

"It is very true that when you drown here your body wont be found. In the past 10 years, i know of a white man, a black man and a pupil who drowned two months ago, non of their bodies were recovered," said Mr Kafupi.

A few months ago, four pupils were swimming in this lake when one of them drowned.

Commandos from the Zambia Army were called in to help retrieve the body.

But the mission was abandoned after five days of searching and the body was not found.

"When i first came to Mpongwe a few years ago, i was told people who drown here are never recovered and i have proved it. Two months ago, a pupil from Mpongwe South Secondary School drowned here, we called in commandos to retrieve the body but they failed. They tried to measure the depth of the lake and it was averaging 100 meters," said Mpongwe District Commissioner Keith Maila.

Even the common man in the area knows the myths surrounding the lake.

It is believed that the water level increases at night and recedes at dawn.

The Lima people also believe that when one throws any object in the water, that object will be found the following morning placed at one of the rocks on the eastern side of the lake.

"People believe that when you throw anything in the lake, you will find it on the rock. But since the Catholics did their prayers a few years ago, the spirits of have run away and those things no longer happen," said Mr Kafupi.

Due to its natural beauty, Lake Kashiba attracts a sizeable number of tourists especially over the weekend.

Evidence of this can be seen by the beer bottles and other drinks left littered around the lake.

The site has potential to be a major tourist attraction for Mpongwe.

A few years ago, the Council Guest House which was here was brought down on account of lack of business.
One of the sign posts at the lake

But what is the local authority doing to improve the site?

"We have plans to make the place more attractive. We want Zambians to appreciate the natural beauty the country has. Lake Kashiba has potential to earn us revenue and we are doing something about it," said Mpongwe Town Council Treasurer Israel Mukalipa.

A grass thatched hut is the only remaining infrastructure at Lake Kashiba.

The structure is what tourists and visitors use when they go there.

But more can be done by authorities.

"We are asking government to build a lodge here so that visitors can be spending nights here. We are also asking for an office for the National Heritage and Conservation Commission to take care of this place," said another resident

Lake Kashiba is located 28 kilometers west of Mpongwe boma in Saint Anthony area.

The road leading to the lake is gravel, but it has been graded to allow good passage for visitors.

People coming from Copperbelt towns for weekend braiis or picnics only need to drive for an hour or two from Luanshya, Ndola or Kitwe to get here.

The lake itself is accessible throughout the year though in the rain season, the nearby stream bursts its banks and floods the road. 

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!!!!!