Shumba’s roar

Portia Mlilo

Passion for the noble profession

Seven years ago, Keikantse Mmolai Shumba was told her services were no longer required by Gabz FM.

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Heavily pregnant at the time, it was a moment that could easily have broken the passionate young journalist.

Instead, it proved the making of her.

The Tonota native has not looked back since, going on to co-found her own media company, Argus Online, with two like-minded scribes.

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Her work has not gone unnoticed.

The 37-year-old was recently named in Focus Africa’s 100 Leading and Emerging Women in Business on the continent, travelling to Casablanca, Morroco to receive her award.

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This recognition came exactly a month after Shumba was voted Media Woman of the Year by Women’s Award Botswana.

When she’s not winning awards and breaking news with Argus, ‘KK’ as she’s known to colleagues, also serves as the Secretary General for Botswana Editors Forum.

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The Voice’s PORTIA MLILO sat down with her home girl to find out how she’s getting it oh so right…

What does winning this award mean to you?

There were mixed emotions.

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I couldn’t believe my eyes when I received the nomination email.

I was emotional and excited.

Being a nominee alone meant a lot to me.

I just told myself that even if I don’t win it, I have been recognized.

Winning this international award shows that I am doing something right and someone recognizes my effort.

What was the criteria used for the nomination?

I was shocked to receive an email and when I asked how the nomination came about, I was told there is an anonymous panel that looks at excelling women in business across Africa.

I was nominated by someone in Southern Africa sitting on the panel.

They did their own research.

I did not even submit my profile.

Talking of online research, people are notoriously casual and even careless about what they post on social media – what’s your take on the power of the Internet?

The Internet plays a very important role and people should know that what they post reflects who they are and how you want to be perceived.

They must know that it can be used against you and determine your future, be it a business or job opportunity.

Use social media to your advantage and brand positioning so that you are not caught napping.

Gone are the days where you use it for jokes and insulting others.

We live in a global society.

It has helped me to establish a business and it was through the same platform that I am recognised internationally.

So what inspired you to start a Media Business?

I was fired from my previous work.

I was heavily pregnant in my last trimester but instead of feeling sorry for myself and being miserable I met with two of my colleagues in the media industry, Queen Mosarwa and Boago Ramaphane and we started Argus Online.

As an individual, I have also wanted to own a media business.

I remember after finishing my media studies, my mother wanted me to be a police officer and I refused.

I was very comfortable when I was at Gabz FM but I needed that kick to remember what I have always wanted in my life, my passion, my dreams and my goals.

It made me realise that it was not my final destination and it was a wake-up call.

I used my pain to catapult me to where I am today with my business partner.

But how did you go about starting a business – it must have been difficult?

It was a very difficult and learning journey.

I was not employable and seen as a liability because I was fired and mind you it was a political move.

I had nothing under my name; thanks to Facebook because the only thing I needed was airtime for a bundles subscription.

In Botswana, we didn’t have an online publication in 2017 and people did not understand our business model.

We kept on pushing because our goal was to become the best online publication.

When others see Covid as a pandemic that did us harm, for us it was an advantage.

There were no physical meetings and when Covid hit, every company or organisation understood they had no choice but online presence and they advertised with us.

While others were playing catch up, we advanced in the online space.

This is our 7th year and we are doing so well.

What are the main challenges of being a female journalist in Botswana?

When I joined the newsroom, I was the only female and I did not see myself less than my male colleagues.

I was not there by mistake; I am a qualified, trained journalist.

We have other challenges like when I was pregnant and I was struggling to be at work or on the field the whole day and my colleagues supported me.

As women we have to push three times harder and you should see yourself as a competitive individual and not use being female as a weakness but rather a strength.

Recently our colleagues at Mmegi found themselves in trouble with the DIS; what do you think is lacking for the security organs to understand the role of media and press freedom?

The media is evolving and it is important to take the DIS on board to understand how we work.

A lot of times we are at loggerheads because both the media and the security organ don’t understand how we operate.

This past weekend Botswana Editors Forum and MISA Botswana met with the DIS leadership and had a conversation.

From that meeting statements were released to say that both parties will now respect how the other works because we now have an understanding.

Although known as the ‘noble profession’, there is a problem with journalists being ‘bought’ to push political and individual agendas. What’s your take on media capture?

What is important is integrity.

Journalists must know their worth and their stand.

People will offer you bribes but we don’t accept that in journalism.

We need to brand ourselves, be firm so that those vultures don’t come to you with that nonsense.

Remember once you accept the bribe, you lose integrity and you will not be trusted with what you write.

Well said! In this digital era we live in today, how do we separate ourselves from citizen journalists?

I like that question because a lot of time when someone has a smartphone and can construct a sentence to post on social media, they think they are journalists.

No you are not!

The public needs to know the difference.

We have ethics and principles that guide and bind us.

That separates us from the rest.

We don’t rush to break the news, a journalist ensures that the story is balanced and proves beyond reasonable doubt that what they report is authentic.

What makes a great journalist?

Having a nose and passion for news.

Journalism is about passion; you are only as good as your last story.

The next story should be better than the previous one.

It’s about being driven by passion; remember, you are not a celebrity!

What advice have you got for those aspiring to own a media business?

You can be anything you want to be and if you are hungry and passionate enough you can get it.

For me it is all about being what you have always wanted to be and fulfilling your goals and dreams.

Be prepared to work extra hard and long hours.

They say journalism is a thankless job but trust me it is very interesting and we learn every day.

You are an inspiration to many, but who is your inspiration?

Honestly I take my inspiration from God.

I also read a lot and I get inspired by a lot of people.

I find inspiration in the people I meet, especially on duty on the streets and their offices.

Thank God It’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?

I am the most boring individual.

(Laughing) I am an introvert.

During the weekend, I stay home, read, listen to music, cook and spend time with my kids.

If there is a political rally I will be there because I also report on politics and there is a lot going on.

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