By Kennedy Katongo Mambwe
My story as a journalist would be incomplete without some incredible childhood events that planted a seed that would geminate and grow to shape my career as a journalist in future. I grew up in a remote rural area of Lubwa, in Chinsali District of northern Zambia, some 826.5 KMs drive from the capital city, Lusaka.
My upbringing was heavily characterised by abject poverty like most Zambians living in rural areas. In the middle of so much struggle, our parents introduced us to a very deep and personal devotion to God. Faith was such a huge part of our upbringing that we didn’t even worry so much about our suffering.
My poverty situation was so dire that I never knew how it felt wearing a pair of shoes until my 8th grade when someone, late Pastor Mwila Chisale, bought a plastic shoe as a present for passing my grade 7 exams into junior secondary school. I briefly stayed with Pastor Chisale at his house when I was waiting for my grade 7 results to be announced.
During that time, as a devout young Christian, I would be helping him at Church with leading the praise and worship team. So, when the results came out and he learnt that I had passed to grade 8, he gifted me with a brand-new pair of plastic shoes as a send-off present – it was such an honour!
However, in the midst of this deplorable and poverty-stricken situation, I was privileged to grow up in an area that shaped Zambia’s political history. Lubwa Mission was the birth place for Zambia’s foremost political figure and first Republican President, late Dr. Kenneth David Kaunda.
Dr. Kaunda’s father was a missionary from neighbouring Malawi, then Nyasaland, who came to Zambia, then known as Northern Rhodesia, to preach the gospel and ended up at Lubwa Mission where he subsequently died and was buried there together with his wife.
As a result, Dr. Kaunda then as President of Zambia would come to Lubwa Mission mostly around Christmas time to pay homage to his late parents. Year in and year out, the late first Republican President would bring life to a neglected remote area and we would for once forget about our misery because of the presidential pomp of choppers, blaring sirens and other trappings.
It was always a colourful moment which we all looked forward to every single year without fail. As a young boy who used to attend Church at the same Lubwa mission of the United Church of Zambia then before I switched to the Pentecostal movement at age 12, what was always of great interest to me was not the presidential motorcades or choreographed flow events. I was always amused with the up and down jostling of men and women with cameras filming or taking pictures at close range with the President.
Each year that came, I would pay attention to the movements of camera men and journalists in the Presidential entourage. It seemed to me, that was the only special class of people that presidential security could not stop from getting close to the highest power figure in the land.
From that early on in life, I knew what I wanted to become – a journalist! Not only did I want to get so close to those in power, but use the power of my career to speak for those who could not speak for themselves or have access to the ruling elite. Journalism became more than a career for me to pursue, it was a thought that grew into a devotion that no one would talk me out of.
Progressing into school, my focus was very clear. I just wanted to become a journalist when I completed school. As fate would have it, when I finally left the village and relocated to the capital Lusaka in 1995, my very first best friend, Dixon Chirambo’s mother was lecturing in a school that offered my dream career, journalism. As you would imagine, it wasn’t difficult for me to find myself at Lusaka’s Evelyn Hone College to study journalism.
Even though I started my career at certificate level, I worked my way up into the London School of Journalism and later the prestigious University of Westminster where I obtained a Master’s Degree in Journalism.
Early in 1999, I became the first young Zambian journalist to embrace the digital space by registering and forming the first-ever cutting-edge online daily news channel called the Information Dispatch, which was later rebranded to today’s Lusaka Times.
Many years later, the dream and passion for journalism that started in a remote place of Lubwa, grew so big that it gave birth to KBN TV where I’m a proud journalist, founder and CEO. KBN TV is a 24/7 news and current affairs channel that broadcasts countrywide on DStv 279, GOtv 97 and TopStar 102 with a staff compliment of over 19.
I have come to realise that dreams do come true. I’m a living testimony of the fact that something that I saw and admired as a young boy, is my today’s reality. It’s beyond my wildest imagination.
I can therefore say Journalism to me is not just a career, it’s a calling. There are things that have happened to try and slow me down but the devotion is too deep and personal to be broken, not by the economy, circumstances or ill-conceived attacks. Nothing will take us out. The legacy is here, I was born to do this, I’m a proud journalist and I will speak against any form of injustice, it’s a way to make up for when I had no one to speak for me as a young boy growing up under the painful grip of abject poverty. This, is my story!