Maureen Nkandu

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Maureen Nkandu.
Maureen Nkandu is a Zambian international journalist and communications expert. She began her career at the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) aged 18. She is daughter of the late veteran journalist and lecturer, Faxon Nkandu, a former News Editor of the Times of Zambia.

Early life

Maureen was born in 1968 in Lusaka to Faxon Nkandu and Grace Chakulunta. She was influenced by her father Faxon Nkandu, former News Editor of the Times of Zambia, and one of very few African journalists to cover the Vietnam War. Out of all of his children, she was the one who showed the most interest in his work. She was nicknamed a reporter both at home and at school because she frequently told on her peers and siblings whenever they did something wrong. At age 11, Maureen read a speech on behalf of all Commonwealth children to the Queen of England and other British and Zambian government leaders at the 1979 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Lusaka.

Education

She started nursery school at Kilimani Primary School in Nairobi, Kenya, where her father worked as communications director for the All Africa Conference of Churches. She later attended Northmead and Woodlands primary schools briefly, then Lusaka Girls Primary School, and later Leopards Hill Secondary School.

At age 17, after completing high school, she walked into the then Zambia Broadcasting Service (now ZNBC) to plead for a job but they could not hire her because of her age and inexperience. Because she was persistent, she was put in a pool of about ten candidates. All the others at the interview were journalism college graduates who laughed off her chances. Little did they know that she had been practicing for the job in front of the mirror for five years and they were all stunned when she got the job.

Professional career

Maureen began her broadcasting career at the age of 18 as a continuity presenter at ZNBC in 1986 -- all the while begging her bosses to let her do the news which was the preserve of 'the veterans' at the station. Then one day the news presenter did not show up on time and she asked them to let her read the news which they reluctantly allowed her to. The news was watched by virtually everyone in the country including President Kenneth Kaunda. When she concluded the take, her director was ecstatic with her performance. Having noticed her evident talent, the station invested in Maureen by sending her for formal training.

She resigned from ZNBC to join BOP (Bophuthatswana) television as an executive producer and presenter where she became their lead TV anchor of the flagship programme, Panorama, for which she won a Marang award. BOP TV was one of the first commercial television stations in Africa in 1984. Bophuthatswana was a self-governing homeland within South Africa during the apartheid era. Her moving to BOP TV was timely, as she was facing rampant sexual harassments from some of her bosses at ZNBC.[1]

After studying for her master’s degree, she worked for the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) as chief international correspondent and TV news anchor. It was through her elaborate work as a roving reporter, covering civil war and conflicts, elections, humanitarian and developmental issues that Maureen was spotted by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 2001 to work as their Africa specialist and presenter of the flagship programme, Focus on Africa.[1]

Maureen returned to the SABC, when she reported on the volatile elections in Kenya in December 2007. She brought out the key political and social aspects of the tension in Kenya, while also showcasing how the violence and all the flawed processes impacted on the people there.

In 2010, Maureen worked with the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) to develop their communications strategy.[1]

Six years later, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) appointed Maureen as Regional Communications Adviser for East and Southern Africa. And after nearly four years at the UNDP, Maureen was again head-hunted in 2012 by the African Union’s NEPAD Agency as Head of Communications.

In December 2014, she came back home to Zambia working for the World Bank as a Senior Communications Expert. She has also conducted training for public relations practitioners and under the Airtel Media Excellence programme.

Personal life

Later in her teenage life, Maureen met and got engaged to Zambia's soccer legend and former Football Association of Zambia president, Kalusha Bwalya who was based in Belgium at that time. Together they had a daughter, Tamela, but their relationship did not last long. She was in her teens and he was 23; they were young and the public attention also put a strain on them.

Maureen has three children.

Kidnapping in Congo DR

In 1998 while working for SABC, she went to the outskirts of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to interview President Laurent Kabila at the height of the civil war following a rebellion in the east. Maureen and her TV crew catch on camera some of Kabila's security forces beating up innocent people, and this led to them being kidnapped by government soldiers, robbed and nearly raped. Victor, the cameraman, pleaded with the soldiers to let her go claiming that Maureen has a terrible disease that makes her shake and sweat all the time. They were then locked up in a dump dark cell littered with human faeces. [1]

That evening, the SABC reported on the evening news that its crew was missing in Kinshasa. Shortly after, the BBC picked up the story and before long, it became international news which led to their eventual release and repatriation.

Awards

  • In Zambia, she was voted the Best TV News Reader for four years running; in 1989, 1990, 1991 and1992
  • Won the Press Association of Zambia News Journalist of the Year award
  • In 1993 at BOP TV, she won the Best TV Personality of the year
  • At SABC she was nominated by the International Women’s Media Foundations for the Courage in Journalism Award, for her coverage of the civil war in Sierra Leone, Rwanda and the DRC
  • At BBC she was awarded the Best Presenter in the Africa Service accolade based on audience research.
  • She was recently awarded as Zambia’s Media Ambassador.

External links

Main references