PROFILE: Ben Kangwa – Diplomat, Broadcaster and Writer
Since May 2012, Ben Kangwa is Deputy Chief of Mission (Deputy Ambassador) at the Embassy of the Republic of Zambia in Washington DC. in the United States of America. A Deputy Chief of Mission is the second in command to the Head of Mission, who is usually the Ambassador. He is the key advisor to the ambassador and is responsible for the day to day running of the Embassy.
As official spokesman for the Embassy of the Republic of Zambia in Washington DC , he was responsible for maintaining a positive and consistent image for Zambia in the countries of representation such as Mexico, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Belize, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama, Costa Rica, Guatamala.
Additionally, other institutions of interest in the USA included the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank Group, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA), the American Peace Corps and Africare just to mention a few.
And for the Zambia High Commission in Canada, countries such as Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Antigua, Barbados, Grenada and Barbuda.
What then did Ben enjoy most as Press Secretary? His answer was to the point – ‘working with the press or the media in general and understanding how people think and why they react the way they do to particular issues.
He added, “The press is not something you can control, but it can turn out to be something very helpful in one’s day to day work. It is important to know how the press works, not only in one’s own country, but in the country of representation. In this regard, a positive attitude to the host country is also always paramount.”
Ben says another important issue is the speed to respond to questions or to find answers for the media. An intelligent Press Secretary would therefore need to understand what the media in a particular country is interested in.
By definition, Ben says embassies are not in their own country where the news takes place, so naturally the media in the host country would get information from their correspondents in those countries represented.
That said, however, embassies can be very useful institutions for creating news for the local media in the host countries by, for instance, arranging meetings between very important persons or by hosting events that are of importance in their home countries.
As for VIPs, organizing background briefings with the media before a visit by the distinguished persons is always thoughtful and clever, as it gives a journalist chance to discuss the issues that might arise with the Press Secretary.
As a contact person between the embassy and the media, journalists will always tend to contact a Press Secretary whenever a negative story breaks out. In this regard, Ben says, it is always good to explain what is going on in one’s country and what the embassy’s concern is.
Meanwhile as ambassadors are usually busy, it is always good to train them to be prepared for hostile questioning and to avoid them saying something that is not well thought of because that can always go the wrong way. A good answer is always better coming from the ambassador because he/she speaks with authority of their country.
As media strategist and political analyst, Ben has full electronic and print media career, having worked in both radio and television at the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) for a period spanning 25 years and rising to the position of Director of Programs, a position he held for nine years. He was responsible for the running of Radio, Television, News, the core business of broadcasting.
With over 10,000 hours of broadcasting to his credit, Ben is the only known journalist in Zambia so far who has produced and presented a business program called ‘Business Review’ for 12 consecutive years.
He is also credited for having produced and presented ‘one-on-one’ 90 minute political interviews with each of the eleven Presidential candidates in the Zambia 2001 tripartite elections on ZNBC.
Additionally, in collaboration with the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ), the European Union (EU), the Freedom Forum of the USA and the Zambia Institute of Mass Communication (ZAMCOM), Ben produced and presented a “live” debate style 90 minute TV program featuring 10 of the 11 presidential candidates at the same time at the Mulungushi International Conference Center (MICC) during the 2001 elections.
The candidates were as follows: Mr. Levy P Mwanawasa SC for Movement For Multi Party Democracy (MMD), Mr. Anderson Mazoka for the United Party for National Development (UPND), General Christon Tembo – Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD), Mr. Tilyenji Kaunda for the United National Independence Party (UNIP), Brigadier General Godfrey Miyanda for Heritage Party (HP), Mr. Benjamin Mwila for the Zambia republican Party (ZRP), Mr. Michael Sata for the Patriotic Front (PF), Dr. Nevers Mumba for the National Citizens Coalition (NCC), Ms. Gwendoline Konie for the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Mr. Akashambatwa Mbikusita Lewanika (standing in for Dr. Inonge Mbikusita Lewanika) for Agenda for Zambia (AZ) and Mr. Yobert Shamapande for the National Leadership Development (NLD).
In 2006 Presidential elections, Ben yet again interviewed five Presidential candidates: Mr. Levy P. Mwanawasa SC – Movement for Multi Party Movement (MMD), Mr. Michael Sata – Patriotic Front (PF), Mr. Hakainde Hichilema – United Democratic Alliance (UDA), Brigadier General Godfrey Miyanda – Heritage Party (HP), and Mr. Winwright N’gondo – All People’s Congress (APC)
Ben, has also produced and presented ‘live’ programs for both radio and television on the National Constitution sponsored by the Willa Mu’ngomba Constitution Review Commission where he sat on the Publicity Committee.
In collaboration with the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Zambia Chapter, he also produced and presented a ‘live’ phone in program on Media Reforms on both radio and television for a stretch of four years running.
On the religious scene, he is also credited for his “witty and strong questions” when he interviewed ex Catholic Arch Bishop Emmanuel Milingo on his controversial marriage to South Korean born evangelist Sun Myung Moon
Ben earned his Master’s Degree in Journalism and Culture from Cardiff University in Wales. In 1996, the Press Association of Zambia (PAZA) presented him with the ‘Best Financial Journalist Award’ of the year.
In September, 2010, he was recognized by the Cambridge “Who’s Who’ for demonstrating dedication, leadership and excellence in his career.
Ben has served on several professional Boards such as the Evelyn Hone College School of Journalism Department Advisory Committee, the Zambia Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, the Yatsani Catholic Radio Station, Zambezi FM in Livingstone, the Salvation Army and the Keep Lusaka Clean Campaign Committee.
He is a regular contributor to a number of local news outlets In Zambia including Solwezi Today and UKZAMBIANS.