By Bright Mtonga
John: “This is a great write up bright, you should write regularly, your article has generated the most views on the website and facebook platforms, even if you are not in mainstream media you can still be contributing to The Independent Observer Zambia”
Author: tongue in cheek “John learn to put your money where your mouth is. The scribe in me usually comes out when I am deeply touched by some occurrence. If my writings is generating you more visibility do the deed”
The conversation took place at The Independent Observer Zambia (TIO) offices in Chingola as I passed to pay a visit to a dear friend. The article in question was an obituary I wrote in February for a man known as Frank Elemy Kabamba, little did I know that the next write up I will pen will be in tribute to a longtime friend and Chingola media mogul John Chinya Sakala.
I remember vividly his passion four journalism during the 2011 general elections when I joined John and Ahmed Mwape going around polling stations gathering news throughout the night. Despite limited resources and rough working environment John never complained and endure the night.
From humble beginnings working for the mines to a reporter with the Times of Zambia, John built his media house to the extent that his influence went beyond the borders of Zambia and has members on his platforms from as far as Australia.
People who have worked in the newsroom will know how rough it is and have been scared to the extent of abandoning the media industry for good, but John rose from that to be a media owner in his own right.
The Independent Observer Zambia is a web based news platform which John built from scratch, it consist of website, Facebook page and four whatssapp groups.
Initially started as a monthly tabloid John evolved his idea and adapted to ensure that his business responded and survived the rough terrain of the media industry.
It is quite remarkable transformation for John from a newspaper stringer to a media owner in less than 10 years. He started the TIO in 2013 and it has been growing bounds leaps until the cold hand of death cut his dream short.
The TIO whatsapp platforms attracts a cross section of professionals and it was a show of business craft that he separated them and set different agendas.
To the man’s credit, he has set up a particularly interesting group aptly named TIO Politics were everything goes and different political players were willing to oblige to his rulings like members of parliament subordinate themselves to the speaker in parliament.
It can only be a shrewd man, who can bring together diferent political opinions, speak his mind truthfully on any topic and fine those who cross the line without being accused of any political affiliation or bias. Maybe his Jehovah’s Witness Faith helped him navigate such tricky undertakings.
John had friends and associates from diverse fields who he impacted upon in diferent ways but his love for journalism and media stood out as the most prominent aspect of his working life.
Zambia Public Relations Association (ZAPRA) president Irene Chipili eulogized him in her own words, “John Chinya Sakala was a hardworking and forthright person. He was very unique in his journalism journey as he demanded for a thorough and complete story. He also took time to know people and this earned him many friends from within and outside his profession.”
Today November 16, 2021, John answered the call from Jehovah God, his ran his race diligently. Walking into TIO offices, as I have done so often this past year was like walking into Mathew 26 Vs 31. The office was closed for business but there people inside.
I found Alice Nachilemba and Maimbo Mweemba visibly shaken, two young women whose lives John influenced, as he has done so often by giving a platform to young journalists to launch their careers.
An office which is full of life was quite, it was like the widows were bigger than usual, looking at the grief stricken, chitenge material clad ladies brought conflicting emotions and since receiving the news it finally sunk in.
I didn’t know whether to embrace the occupants or to join in the crying as the two colleagues’ watery eyes betrayed their efforts to keep strong in the face of adversity.
Uncomfortably seating next to your usual perch, I remember the way you encouraged me to write and took out a pen, I politely started a conversation with the two journalist.
“He was a good man and mentored me in my journalism career, he was selfless and loved journalism, he has contributed a lot to the media in the nation and in Chingola in particular” said Alice Nachilemba, Journalist and supervisor at TIO.
Maimbo Mweemba a Journalist for TIO said, “He advised me to work hard so that I bring out the best in me.”
At the time of his death John Chinya Sakala 46, was the Founding Director and Editor of TIO as well as interim Chingola Press Club Chairperson.
He was a family man, and he is survived by the wife Gloria Sankanta and three famous sister as he fondly referred to his daughters.
Your resilience even in adversity has been the hallmark of your life, you kept smiling even when you were clearly in pain. You even freely discussed your illness when lesser men would have been striving to keep it wraps.
Farewell my friend.