In the 15 years that Kwangu Liwewe has been a media practitioner, she has become a household name. Having come from a family where both her father and brother are media practitioners, it is no wonder she ended up in this profession. In this interview with Paida Mpaso, she talks about her life, her loves and her career.
You have an interesting name. What does it mean?
Kwangu means last born. I am the fourth and last child of Dennis and Sylvia Liwewe. I was born in Kitwe, Zambia but I hail from Liwewe Village, TA Malengachanzi, Nkhotakota. I have three siblings. The first is a female called Linda and sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s an accountant working for the World Bank in Washington DC.
The second born is a man and heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s called Ponga. Many people will know him as an analyst on SuperSport. He is based in Johannesburg and is running his own production company. The third is Liwewe Liwewe and heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a businessman based in Lusaka, Zambia.
When did you realise that you wanted a career in reporting?
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve known since I was a little girl growing up in Zambia. Even then, I always knew that I wanted to be a journalist. I was a loud mouth (IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not saying that journalists are loud!), let me rephrase that, I was outspoken. My father, a renowned broadcaster, always made us listen to the local and international news. He also made us read the dailies so I was kept abreast with news and current affairs.
We did not have 24 hour news service at the time but I was and still am a keen listener of the BBC WorldserviceÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Network Africa and Focus on Africa. My first break as a reporter was at the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) Radio and TV.
Who inspired you to join this profession?
I vividly remember the day I decided that I wanted to be a reporter. One of the BBC journalists Elizabeth Ohene had come to Zambia to cover some stories and she was getting ready to interview the then president Kenneth Kaunda. She was having a discussion with my dad during lunch at our house and she said she would ask him when he would step down. And I thought wow, sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s daring! In those days, and in that particular era, one wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t ask such questions. It was then I knew for certain that I wanted to be a journalist.
What is it that you love about this profession?
I love what I do, period. This is why I am focused and dedicated to my profession. This job is about passion and commitment and definitely not the paycheck. You have to be on top of your game so to speak. I read a lot of books. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t read fiction at all, I used to but not anymore. Its autobiographies, Christian literature, biographies, news and current affairs magazines and self -help books.
Where do you draw your strength from?
I draw my strength on the Word of God. I meditate on it every single day. I get a scripture and meditate on it in the morning. The Bible is full of inspirational quotes that deal with every challenge and aspect in oneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s life.Ã‚Â One that works wonders for me is Philippians 4:13, which reads:Ã‚Â Ã¢â‚¬Å“ I can do all things through Christ which strengthen me.Ã¢â‚¬ÂÃ‚Â This rings true to me. Every time I face a challenge or I am apprehensive, I say it out and I believe it and I achieve what I set out to do.
What are some of the highlights of your career?
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been an amazing two to three years for me ever since I put my trust in God. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s opened unimaginable doors for me. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve had the opportunity to interview on a one to one, Kofi Annan, Ban-ki-Moon, Olusegun Obasanjo, TB Joshua, Bingu wa Mutharika, Bakili Muluzi, Rupiah Banda, the late Frederick Chiluba, Louis Moreno Ocampo, Atiku Abubakar, Babatunde Fashola, Kenneth Kaunda, Matthew Ashimolowo. But itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not just the public figures, the ordinary people on the streets, in the villages also inspire me. They too are remarkable and have stories to tell that touch ones hearts. Their resilience and strength is amazing and we need to highlight these people more in the media.
How did you manage to rise through the ranks?
I started off as a reporter and newscaster at ZNBC, and then moved to MBC in the same capacity, then TVM. I had a stint at Nation Publications Limited in Lilongwe so I had a feel of print media. From there, I went to the UK to do my MA and freelanced for a couple of years. I then relocated to South Africa and joined etv. When eAfrica was launched, I switched over and worked as senior reporter and anchor. The company then set up the East and West Africa Bureaus and as they say the rest is history! I am currently the West Africa Bureau chief for eNews Africa.
How many people are you in charge of?
The West Africa Bureau has been in operation since September 2011. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s me, the bureau chief, two cameramen (one Rwandese, one Kenyan) and a Nigerian reporter. So, we are a mixed breed. eNews Africa is all about telling the African story from an African perspective. We believe that our story is best told by us Africans because we know the issues and can articulate them.
What does your job entail?
I cover stories, I run the daily affairs of the office such as budgets, I do forward planning in terms of what stories we will be covering, networking, building a contacts base and so on.
What do you love most about your job?
The adrenalin rush when thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s breaking news. Nigeria has been in the spot light since the Christmas bombings so weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been working around the clock. WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve got Boko Haram to cover, the fuel subsidies issue so weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been busy. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the live interviews to do; the packages (reports) to compile and of course deadlines to meet. We are one hour behind Johannesburg so I have to think Johannesburg time.
Any secrets or formula to your success?
Hard work, determination, passion and focus got me where I am. You have to enjoy what you are doing to excel, otherwise you are wasting your time. I believe we all have a God-given talent and once you discover it and utilise it, you will be amazed by what you can achieve.
How can you convince women that rising to the top does not require dubious means?
Correct me if am wrong but either you have it or you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know any woman who has made it to the top by using Ã¢â‚¬Å“bottom powerÃ¢â‚¬Â and has succeeded or is an achiever. Such techniques only work for those who canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t make it to the top by sheer hard work, determination and diligence. I read extensively and all the women I admire have used their brains and talents to get where they are. The Sonia GandhiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s, Michelle ObamaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s, Wangari MaathaiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s, Dambisa MoyoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s of this world are classic examples of women of virtue who have succeeded. The list is endless but I must add that some men use dubious means to get to the top as well. I literally rose through the ranks from a cub reporter, to a reporter, a senior reporter and now to bureau chief.
Nigeria is fast paced.Ã‚Â Its people are always on the go. What is working in such an environment like?
Everybody says Nigeria is a difficult place to work in. I disagree.Ã‚Â ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all about having the right attitude and adapting to the environment. At the end of the day, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the end product that matters and so you have to find ways to get your story done and sent in time for the bulletins.
Yes, thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s an erratic supply of electricity. Yes, thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s congestion on the roads and sometimes the Internet is slow but thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s life. I just get on with it. On a personal note, life has been my best teacher. Yes IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve made mistakes but IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve learnt from them and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s made me a stronger person. I believe where thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s life, thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hope so since am still alive and well, God still has plans for my life. I often tell people that, nothing is hopeless. One can turn their life around if only they believe so. You can be anything you want to be. When you hit rock bottom, thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s only one place you can go up!
What do you do when you get some time alone?
I read a lot. I go to church and do Bible studies. I go out with friends and am trying to get fit so am working out now.
Are you married?
I have never been married but I am a single mum with two daughters.
- Went to Lusaka Girls and secondary school at St. MaryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s in Lusaka.
- Completed her secondary education at Eaglesvale in Harare, Zimbabwe.
- Obtained a diploma in journalism, advertising and broadcasting at Evelyn Hone College in Lusaka.
- Masters in International Journalism from City University in London
- Was one of the first recipients of a Sky News scholarship.