Source: Zambia Daily Mail
FOR Vice-President-elect Mutale Nalumango, assuming public office is about providing services to better people’s lives, as opposed to amassing wealth. This is the motivation that Mrs Nalumango, 66, a teacher-turned politician comes with as she takes office as Vice-President of Zambia tomorrow.
A reverend and devout Christian who gave her life to Christ in 1980, the Vice-President-elect says she is not going into public office to build herself a mansion but to serve the people of Zambia because she is content with what she has. “Venturing into the political field is all about serving. I am very happy to live here. It is not about me and I am not planning building a bigger house because my mind is about what will happen to that woman, what will happen to that orphan child, because I grew up as an orphan too,” Mrs Nalumango said when female chief executive officers and other professionals visited her at her home to congratulate her on her election as Vice-President of Zambia.
Born on January 1, 1955, in Kaputa District, where she was also bred, Mrs Nalumango was raised by her mother, Esnart Mukupa, having lost her father, Richard Kubengwa, when she was only five. Before launching her teaching career that would span 25 years, Mrs Nalumango was trained at Nkrumah Teacher’s Training College, after completing school at Kasama Girls Secondary School. “I trained as a secondary school teacher and I am a teacher of English and history,’’ she said in an interview at her home in Ngwerere, Lusaka. Mrs Nalumango’s first posting as a teacher was at Lubuto Secondary School in Ndola, thereafter which she went on to work with different schools over a period of 25 years. Some of the schools where she taught are Chinsali Girls Secondary School in Muchinga Province, Fatima Girls Secondary School in Ndola and Kansenshi Secondary School, also in Ndola. She was later transferred to Munali Secondary School in Lusaka as a senior teacher. Later she would act as deputy head teacher of the school. After a stint at Munali, she earned herself promotion as deputy head teacher for Burma Basic School.
Mrs Nalumango came into the political limelight in 2001, when she was elected Kaputa Member of Parliament (MP) on the MMD ticket. Seeking public office at the time was a gamble for her because she had to quit her job as deputy head teacher to contest parliamentary elections to fulfil her childhood dream of improving the living conditions of people in her home district.
Her desire to bring better social services to that remote district, which is among the poorest regions of Zambia, was stronger than her fear of losing a job. Fortunately for her, she grabbed the Kaputa seat on first attempt. Five years later, Mrs Nalumango secured a second five-year term of office as Kaputa MP, positioning herself for election as Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly during the Mwanawasa-led government. However, it was during her first term in Parliament that she rose to recognition when she was appointed Minister of Labour and Social Security and later became Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services, earning the position of Chief Government Spokesperson. This was not the first time Mrs Nalumango was holding a senior decision-making position. Way back from her days as a teacher, she was an active unionist and founding member of Secondary School Teacher’s Union of Zambia (SESTUZ). She rose to the position of SESTUZ vice-president, in 1995, although at this time she was already relishing political ambitions.
In an interview with this newspaper last year, Mrs Nalumango shared that when her former party decided to float her for the position of Deputy Speaker of National Assembly, she graciously accepted but she decided to prepare herself adequately for the job by reading widely. That is how determined she was to succeed in an office she never imagined occupying. It is the same determination she brings to the office of republican Vice-President after an opportunity came knocking when President-elect Hakainde Hichilema picked her as his running mate in the just-ended polls which the UPND leader won. When she joined active politics, Mrs Nalumango had no idea that one day she would become a minister and let alone Vice-President of Zambia. This is also the same person who would one day become the first woman in Zambia to hold the position of Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly.
For her, being MP was sufficient and it meant a lot of work, because at the time, Kaputa had no hospital nor secondary school. It was also not connected to the national power grid and the roads were dilapidated. Mrs Nalumango boasts that during her tenure as MP, Kaputa District Hospital was constructed and communication towers were installed too. But in the wind of change that saw the MMD lose political power and the PF ushered into government, the Vice-President-elect lost the Kaputa parliamentary seat to PF’s Maxas Ng’onga (late) in the 2011 polls. “It was all about Kaputa, my old story. I saw that the people of Kaputa were very backward and yet they were part of Zambia,” Mrs Nalumango says about how her political journey started. Today, the woman who never imagined herself at the highest echelon of power, is the incoming Vice-President of Zambia. She was attracted to UPND in 2013 by the party’s manifesto. This was upon realising that the MMD was collapsing even after many attempts to revive it.
Mrs Nalumango was appointed vice-president of UPND in February this year, after serving the party as national chairlady since 2013. The Vice-President-elect, is grateful to Mr Hichilema for showing confidence in her by choosing her to be his running mate. She restates her position that she is not going into public office to plunder Zambia’s resources. Contrary to assertions that politics in Africa is about self-aggrandisement, Mrs Nalumango says this will not be the case under the UPND Government. She says every leader under President Hichilema’s administration will be expected to adhere to the rule of law and tenets of good governance. According to Mrs Nalumango, the UPND Government will not shield corrupt leaders.
“It is the rule of law [that will apply]. You remember what [President] Mwanawasa, the man I served under, said: if you are found with a case, we part company until you prove yourself innocent and no interference in the justice system,’’ she said.
Mrs Nalumango is married to Bishop Max Lubinda Nalumango and together they have three grown-up children and grandchildren, too.