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In August, the eNews Channel was rebranded as eNCA (eNews Channel Africa). With it came a few refreshing changes – Sky News anchor Lukwesa Burak joined the Africa Edition team. She has taken over the reins from former host Chris Maroleng, who still presents Africa360 as well as executing his duties as eNCA Africa Editor: HOD Africa Division. Debashine Thangevelo chatted to Maroleng about how he feels about handing over the baton to Burak and their vision for their respective shows…
Lukwesa Burak has just finished unpacking her bags after landing in South Africa two hours earlier, when we get to speak.
She says: “I was in the UK; had a bit of work to do. I’m home with my daughter; she is four and a half – a very cute age.” Burak also has a nine-year-old son.
The Zambian-born anchor had an illustrious career at the BBC before joining Sky News in 2006.
Truly appreciative of the opportunities, she says: “Sky is an experience I would recommend to anybody. When you are working at that level in the industry, you could not ask for anything else.
“I came straight for the BBC, but with every job I looked at it as a training ground.
“You know, it’s a very small industry. Working at Sky, my goodness, it teaches you everything – it is known for its ‘breaking news’. admit I find it difficult to work in a pre-recorded environment. I feel like I haven’t got the edge when you get the news from the studio to the people at home.
“You learn to interview without preparation. It takes you to a whole different level. It was a wonderful experience. That is why I stayed for so long. The only reason I left is that my husband got relocated here and the job offer from eNCA came,” Burak reveals.
Of all the stories she covered at Sky News, the one that she’ll never forget – because of its enormity – was Saddam Hussein’s execution.
She admits: “That really got me. You knew it was coming. But it was something you couldn’t prepare for. When the footage came out, we were not sure whether to air it as it was very graphic.
“I was less than a year on the job and remember sitting there and feeling ill as the producer said he was sending me lines [of updates]. At the same time, my entire computer system in front of me crashed. I said I couldn’t see anything. Eventually, the penny dropped. They had to feed me the information from the gallery and I had to feed it directly to the public.
“I came off air feeling so ill… and high. I just knew I couldn’t mess this one up. After that I thought: ‘Anything else is going to be easy.’”
On taking over from Chris Maroleng on Africa Edition, Burak smiles: “I could never match him. He is so full of energy. I like to have a conversation. That is how I was trained and it matched my personality. It isn’t just about reading, it is about whether you can engage somebody and get them thinking. It’s where my strength is.”
Rather then emulate Maroleng, she wants the show to capture her strengths.
She confirms: “We are in the process of putting together a series of pilots on the new version of Africa Edition. At the moment, it is very heavy news. I want to bring in journalists who have been following a story and get their take. I want it more lifestyle-based. That is something I’m very much involved in.”
On the subjects she will focus on, Burak says: “In politics, we all have an opinion. My true love and nosiness in aspects is on everyday life.
“We did a special on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) last week. I thought: ‘Well, I don’t want to speak to a minister, people don’t trust a minister.’ That is the example I had, where I chatted to the journalists following the story.”
While still familiarising herself with her new surroundings, the host makes her standpoint clear, saying: “There is such a negative perception of the… continent outside of Africa and I have been on both sides. The only kind of information fed is if there is a war that breaks out.
“What I want to do is show the good that is coming out.
“The continent has one of the fastest-growing economies. There are such big steps taken with malaria. We don’t talk about these things.”
THANKFULLY, “the don’t touch me on my studio” saga of 2010 has subsided for the prolific host.
Maroleng smiles: “I really struggled not to be defined by that incident. As humorous as it was, to a number of people, and for a long time, I struggled to find the humour of it. We were trying to reflect on a serious incident on the state of relations in South Africa and it was turned into a farcical situation.
“I think in many ways, it helped me to grow as an on-air presenter. I had to really reflect on how differently I could have handled the situation. Would I have done it differently? I probably would have still stood up for him [Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging secretary-general Andre Visagie], attacking Lebohang Pheko [political analyst]. Would I have said it in a bad grammatical situation? Probably not!”
Maroleng has been with the news channel since it launched in 2008.
He says: “I came in as Africa editor, essentially to enhance the level of African content we were putting out on our 24-hour platform.
“We went about developing forums like Africa360, a current affairs show that looked at the political and economic climate and the newsmakers on the continent. As we did that, we developed eNews Africa. We also developed Africa Edition, our flagship news programme, which is broadcast in the UK as well.”
About his duties as eNCA Africa Editor: HOD Africa Division, he says: “The Africa Division comprises 70 people, both editorial and technical. As the head, that requires being involved in the day-to-day running, determining editorial approaches to stories, financial management.”
As for handing over the baton to Burak, he says: “She is a seasoned journalist. She allows us to benchmark ourselves with our international competitors.
“She has a great ability to make us understand what it is that appeals to audiences in the market we have asked her to work in. And she has this vibrant personality that makes her instantly appealing. Also, she has a passion for the continent as her roots are in Africa.”
In continuing to present Africa360, he offers an all-embracing take on the political, economical and social changes on the continent. While honing in on the positive aspects, Maroleng says “it isn’t always rose-tinted”.
In a nutshell, these two hosts have become iconic newsmakers.
eNCA, DStv channel 403. Africa Edition airs daily at 11.30pm. Africa360 airs Saturday, 11.30am.