Dr Elias Munshya
From Chiwempala to the World
Lawyer, diplomat, theologian, pastor, blogger, husband and father are the different roles that Dr Elias Munshya fulfils. He is a man whose life is marked with numerous milestones and achievements, an example of a life not wasted, and at the age of 43, he is just getting started.
He holds a total of eight degrees, including his newly minted PhD, operates a law firm in Canada called Munshya Law and was recently appointed High Commissioner of the Republic of Zambia to the Commonwealth of Australia with extra accreditation to New Zealand. Many Zambians probably know him as the face of TV Bakwetu, a social media broadcast that began as an advocacy platform for political equity in Zambia. TV Bakwetu, broadcasted from his adopted home in Alberta, Canada, has been fully embraced by Zambians of all ages and classes.
We need to strengthen bilateral relations between our beautiful country and Australia and New Zealand…We will also strengthen the diaspora in the two countries and the link between them and their country
Perhaps the most accurate description of Dr Munshya is the one he gives himself. He describes himself as “a young boy born in the Chiwempala part of Chingola whose life revolves around a passion for serving Zambia.” Even though Dr Munshya has been living in Canada for the last 15 years, his deep Zambian roots are unmistakable. We sat down for this interview on a warm day in July with Eden Haus restaurant providing the perfect backdrop.
Nestled at the end of the lush Middleway Road in Lusaka’s Kabulonga suburb, Eden Haus combines indoor and outdoor dining with a diverse menu from all corners of the world. We sat outside to take advantage of the warm weather during what had been a rather cold week. Dr Munshya ordered a cup of black tea and we began our conversation.
Dr Munshya’s illustrious career is an example of taking advantage of opportunity when it strikes. After completing his secondary education, he moved to Swaziland, now eSwatini, to study for a Bachelor of Arts in Bible and Theology. He then returned to Zambia to serve as a pastor and lecturer at Grace Theological College which was under the Grace Ministries Mission International (GMMI). He served in this role for the next six years and then moved to Canada to pursue a Master of Divinity (M.Div.). Upon completion, he decided to stay in Canada.
Today, he is known more for his work in the courtroom than at the pulpit. He decided to pursue a law degree to enhance his work as a theologian, given the intersection between the church and society. However, upon completion, he decided to explore a career in law with the possibility of staying in Canada. After a rigorous process that saw him complete his Master of Laws (LLM) degree at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law in Chicago USA, he was called to the Canadian Bar in 2016 at the age of 38.
Besides his work, Dr Munshya is an avid runner, a habit he uses to manage the stress from his work. “I’m generally small-bodied, and I thought I didn’t need physical activity because of this. So, after a visit to the doctor, which showed signs of stress, I decided I needed to make a change. I started with short runs of one to two kilometres, but the dividends were incredible. After a run my mood improved and I could concentrate on my work as a lawyer, which was very stressful. As I progressed, I started going for long runs. To challenge myself, I go for half marathons occasionally.”
After years of personal advocacy on social media, Dr Munshya started a Facebook page called TV Bakwetu, which today has over 93,000 followers. The platform has exploded both in Zambia and in the diaspora. Speaking on the platform’s success, Dr Munshya says, “We came as a collection of voices and the role that we played was that of a courageous voice. Being outside the country meant I had more courage and could confront issues boldly. Our listeners trusted our information and that relationship was responsible for our success.”
The success of TV Bakwetu was evident during the 2021 presidential elections, and it served as a voice of reason for Zambian voters. “I did not know the effect of TV Bakwetu until I came back to vote in the elections. I would meet people, and they would thank me for TV Bakwetu. They told me we helped fight corruption and tribalism and helped people make informed decisions about their future.” As he prepares for public office, Dr Munshya will step back from his role at TV Bakwetu but is confident that the platform will continue to thrive.
Dr Elias Munshya’s life and career have come full circle. For years while living abroad, he has been passionate about serving Zambia. Now he has the opportunity to do that in his new role as the High Commissioner of the Republic of Zambia to the Commonwealth of Australia with extra accreditation to New Zealand. In this role, he has the opportunity to represent Zambia on an international level, a position that fits him perfectly. When asked about his top priorities, he said, “We need to strengthen bilateral relations between our beautiful country and Australia and New Zealand. We also need to tap into cooperation with Australian sectors in business, culture and technology. We will also strengthen the diaspora in the two countries and the link between them and their country.”
In July of 2022, Dr Munshya attended the Zambian Diaspora Conference which was held in Livingstone with the goal of “shifting mindsets to ignite growth.” Zambia joins the wave of African countries calling for close collaboration with their citizens living abroad. For years, Zambia has struggled with brain drain – “the emigration of highly trained or qualified people from a particular country,” which is not always bad. Dr Munshya is an example of the impact those in the diaspora can have on the development of their origin countries in all spheres. Commenting on his influence, he says, “I wouldn’t be the first one encouraging those abroad to come back home. I would encourage those abroad to get interested in events happening in Zambia. I got involved politically with establishing TV Bakwetu, which I believe will be useful in Zambia for years.”
Dr Munshya’s story is still being written and if it were to be told through an autobiography, which has an excellent chance of being released, he would title it From Chiwempala to the World. He shares, “I never in my wildest dreams thought I would have this opportunity to travel the world. My upbringing in Chiwempala prepared me for this role, and I would like to pay tribute to that. The people that raised me were marketeers at Chiwempala market, where I learned my lessons about life. One of my aunties got to take a picture with the president of Zambia when I was sworn in as high commissioner and that was a very emotional moment for me.”
Eden Haus – Lusaka’s preferred restaurant
Eden Haus is undoubtedly one of Lusaka’s most popular restaurants and patrons love it for both the world-class cuisine and the gorgeous al fresco and indoor setting. The menu offers up sensational cocktails and hearty, delectable meals with artful plating and unmatched service.