Former television news anchor Wynne Musabayana says mentorship by some of Zimbabwe’s most prominent broadcasters shaped her career in the industry.
Musabayana (WM), now head of communications at the African Union, told Farai Mwakutuya (FM) on the platform In Conversation with Trevor her rise to fame as a ZBC news anchor was largely influenced by the training and grooming by the veterans she found at the then only national broadcaster.
Below are excerpts from the interview.
FM: Well, thank you very much for joining us. It is a great honour and privilege to be speaking to you, Ma’am, welcome to In Conversation With Trevor.
WM: Thank you very much, Farai. Thank you for inviting me on to your show and hello to all the viewers.
FM: Many people, many Zimbabweans will remember you from your time at ZBC when you were a news anchor gracing our screens for many years.
Could you tell us as a way of beginning this discussion, how you got there?
WM: Well, I got there through a scheme that was introduced at that point.
I believe that it was a government scheme, so we were in the third year of our degree programme at the University of Zimbabwe, and we were approached or rather we received these delegations that had come in.
Essentially what they were doing was to pitch for opportunities in the public service, as well as in the parastatals.
So, there were people that came in from the army, from the police, from ZBC, as well as from the ministry of Foreign Affairs, looking for graduates to enter into that service at graduate level.
So that is really how it all started.
They gave us that pitch, and we were asked to choose where we wanted to go. A number of friends and myself and some colleagues opted to go to the ZBC.
We went to the ZBC, we were very well received.
The faces that I recall were Baba Haile Velaphi Mlangeni and also Sisi Busi Chindove.
They then gave us a kind of an interview, it was quite serious.
I think they were trying to assess which capacities each one of us had.
From there they then selected those people who were to stay at Pockets Hill, and I believe some then went also to Mbare Studios for the Shona and the Ndebele services.
The interesting thing, however, was that we were just coming out of university and so we went into ZBC really like a clean slate, waiting for information, waiting for training and we were not disappointed because ZBC offered at that time very good training.
This was done by both local and international experts, so we received the whole training from how to write for news, how to write for broadcast, especially because it is a little different from writing for print.
We were then given that training on how to write, on how to edit, how to be a good sub-editor.
We were also taught how to produce programmes, how to collate a news bulletin and make it ready.
How to time both the speed of the presenter as well as the whole story, and therefore of the whole bulletin, to make sure that we came out within the 30 minutes that was allocated for news at that time.
We then also received a lot of mentoring and ongoing coaching, both from the professional trainers, but also from the more seasoned journalists who were at ZBC.
I have to say that they made our lives much easier as it did not take long for us to get used to the system and to start being productive in a very short space of time.
I also just really want to complement that training because even today I am finding it useful in the work that I am doing, so it was very good and really that is how I entered this industry.
So, I started off with doing the radio news as a sub-editor/presenter.
Sub-editor meaning really the one who produces the news.
Well, firstly you receive the news from the reporters, and then you do your sub-editing which includes also sometimes rewriting the story to make sure that the audiences can understand it.
So, after you do that and then you collate the stories, you hand over to the presenter.
I started off with a sub-editing bit, then was requested to start doing radio news as well as newsreel and news-beat.
Then in the second year at ZBC I was then asked to try out the television news.
FM: Just to take you back a bit. You were at university, could you tell us what you were studying and perhaps what informed your choice of choosing ZBC out of the different pitches that had been put in front of you? Is it because you felt already that you had a passion for media?
WM: Yes. I studied a Bachelor of Sociology Honours at university.
After that I then of course went on to do other courses like a Diploma in Public Relations at a college which is in town.
Then later on I went on to do a Master’s course in Journalism at Cardiff in Wales.
So that is my educational background. but what informed my choice to go for ZBC was that I had been very active in debates in high school and I represented my house, it was called Tudor House, at what was then Sinoia High School, later to become Chinhoyi High School.
Besides that, I had also in growing up really admired some of the broadcasters that were there at that time when I was young.
I remember when I was young even asking my mum, “Where are these people who are speaking to us?” because I really wanted to understand how broadcast signals came all the way from Harare to Alaska Mine where I grew up and Shackleton Mine, because I could not understand it.
So it was a constant debate in our house as to how I could hear Jane Esau speaking in Harare, and I was like hundreds of kilometres away.
So I had always had that interest in understanding about broadcasting, so I mean you could say fate had it for me.
FM: How did you feel at that time being a young black woman working for such an influential state institution like ZBC?
WM: It was great. I enjoyed it, like I said we received very extensive training and it has not gone out of fashion.
It is still relevant to me today as it was at that point, and it also helped me to win some awards in the presenting category.
We used to have these competitions and I remember that I won twice the Presenter of the Year Award and once as a runner-up.
So, it just goes to show that the thoroughness of the training and the mentoring system that was there.
For me coming into the institution, firstly I said we came in as a group of people from the university and so as a group I think we worked very well together, uplifting each other, correcting each other the way it was necessary and making sure that we were abiding by the instructions that we had been given on how to become good broadcasters.
We then went on and on like that, and the support that we continued to receive was really excellent so it was kind of a smooth transition.
I do not remember that feeling of getting lost when you get into a big institution, when you get into an unfamiliar environment.
I think that the institution was very well-prepared for our coming and prepared us well for it.
FM: The weight of expectation, I imagine what you must have also felt knowing that there were people in places, in the communities where you grew up with your own family, old schoolmates perhaps, who were looking and watching you on TV and saying ‘She’s one of us. She’s representing us.’ How did that feel?
WM: I have to say that the comments that were coming from people were very good.
In the first instance I remember my first bulletin that I did.
I did it with Alice Chavunduka, who, as you all know, was perfection in terms of broadcasting.
In those days at the end of every week, the newspapers would have a review of what came out from the broadcasting station.
So, they reviewed programmes, but they also made comments about presenters and they were not always very nice at it, I have to say.
So, I was really very pensive after my first broadcast to see how it had been received. so I was very happy as I think it was on a Thursday when the Financial Gazette put out a headline that said, Musabayana’s TV Debut A Cincher.
Now I have to say that I had to look up this word, cinch, and what it means is doing something with ease.
It had not been easy because I had knots in my stomach, but it was an affirmation for me, because despite the nervousness that I felt at that point, it meant that the bulletin had come out well and I had made a good impression.
So that gave me a lot of confidence going forward.
In terms of the people around me that I grew up with, they were really very supportive.
I think the background that you need to know is that I did not come from a big city. my rural home is in Rusape, and then my mother comes from Mutare, but I grew up on two small mines just outside Chinhoyi, and they are Alaska and Shackleton mines.
So I am what you might call a small town girl.
So going into the institution and leaving the mine behind, whenever I went back you know people were always very excited to say “Wow! You know we never knew that somebody from these parts of the world could actually end up on television.”
What that did to me then was to give me even more determination to say I am not going to be the one who has been kicked off the news roster for lack of performance.
So I really worked very hard, I was very determined, and it was fortunate that we had very good mentors.
I have mentioned some of them before, but I can also add there Mr Shingirayi Tungwarara, Sisi Alice Mutema and so on.
These people really made sure that you were on your toes, and you presented and did your work to the best of your ability.
Then we were also very much encouraged to watch other broadcasters, be they local or regional or international, because the aim was to be the best of the best and not just to be the best at a local level, but also to be good enough to compete even at an international level.
So there was that drive to say I have to perform at my best and I have to put in as much hard work as it takes for me to do that.