You probably know him as a journalist but us who are closer to him know him as a proud Mumbwa villager.
Paul Shalala is so proud of his village that whenever he visits it in his native Mumbwa District, he never comes back without uploading a photo of himself eating lusala or eating mango with his ageing father.
Some have been making fun of his once ‘backward’ Mumbwa but the young man does not shy away from revealing his love for his childhood.
“I was born in Lusaka, raised in Nangoma area of Mumbwa District, educated in Mumbwa, working in Kitwe and I know one day I will be buried in Mumbwa. That’s my home and I know no other home than Mumbwa,” said Paul in a telephone interview from Syracuse University in New York where he is studying Public Management as part of US President Barack Obama’s Mandela Washington Fellowship.
At a time when most youths brag about ‘living’ in Kabulonga, Ibex Hill or Woodlands, Paul is always talking about his Lubanze village.
What is so unique about Nangoma?
“Nangoma is an area in Mumbwa which consists of over 500 villages which form almost half of the Chiefdom for Senior Chief Shakumbila of the Sala people. I grew up in Lubanze Village. That’s my homeland. I love that area and I visit it very often.”
“As a family, we have a lot of land. We do agriculture and own houses. My parents moved from Lusaka to that area in 1967 and since then they had been moving from one school to the other until they finally settled in Lubanze and retired there. “
“My father taught at over five schools across Nangoma. My mother did the same too and currently she is in the board for Nangoma Mission Hospital. Shalala is a household name there. Actually my elder brother Louis is contesting as Mumbwa District Council Chairman under the Patriotic Front.”
Asked about his own contribution to his village, Paul smiled before opening up saying he even owns a registered transport company for minibuses called Nangoma Transport.
He says he had been a Youth leader for the SDA Church in Mumbwa and worked a lot with youths thatside.
“I spent over five years from 2008 to 2013 leading and training Adventist Youths in Mumbwa as a whole: covering Kabile, Mumbwa, Nangoma, Keezwa, Lutale and other areas. Currently, I sponsor an annual Independence Football tournament called Shakumbila Cup which is named after Senior Chief Shakambila and is held at his Chisalu Palace in Kakombo area. This tournament is for all the village teams in Nangoma. I also sponsor and buy balls, boots and jerseys for two amateur football teams in Nangoma called Manchester United and Kakombo Boys. Nangoma is my home and I cannot forget where I come from.”
Despite being born in the capital city, Paul never boasts of being a town boy.
His obsession for Mumbwa is surprising.
On Thursday last week, he and 41 other Zambian youths left for the United States to be part of the 2016 Mandela Washington Fellowship.
The 42 youths were selected by the US State Department to be part of the 1,000 young Africans who are currently spread across the US attending training at various American universities in public management, energy, civic leadership and business and entrepreneurship.
Paul is studying Public Management at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs with 24 other youths from other African countries.
“I never ever dreamt of one day stepping into an American university and be taught by a Professor. It’s a humbling experience and I thank President Barack Obama for this once in a lifetime opportunity. I applied for this opportunity in 2013 and 2014 but I didn’t make it. I never gave up and for sure the following year I applied and here iam………,” he said.
Paul says he is already inspired by the composition of the fellows he has seen so far.
“We have a young politician from South Africa who is part of our class. He is the youngest elected Councillor in his country, having won a ward in Johannesburg at the age of 22 in 2012. I have also seen a South Sudanese and a Nigerian fellow who are both blind but are doing wonders back home.”
And with the coming of the Presidential Summit in Washington, DC which will climax with President Obama addressing all the 1,000 fellows during a town hall meeting in August, Paul says it will be an emotional thing for him to see Obama.
“I grew up in the George W. H. Bush days and I know every US President since then,by name. Obama will be a special one because I will see him face to face and probably greet him. I cannot wait to get a selfie with him…….,” said Paul before bursting into laughter.
And when asked about his future prospects after coming back home, Paul says he has major plans for ZNBC and the media.
“With the help of my employer ZNBC, I plan to help set up desks for specialisation in the newsroom. Am learning how American newsrooms operate with specialised reporters in each desk. We can replicate that back home. We will be touring several media institutions and meet opinion leaders who can help me in that area.
“Secondly, with the help of other 2016 Mandela Washington Fellows, we plan to start training young reporters and school going children in basics of journalism. Our plan is to cover at least five provinces and spread the best practices of this noble profession to future media personalities.”
Paul is expected back home in August, a few days before Zambia gooes to the polls and he says: “Am coming to vote and I hope my 1 vote will add to someone’s 50 percent…...”
Note: This story was originally published by Zambia's largest online newspaper Mwebantu on June 20, 2016. It has been reproduced with permission