SANFROSSA MANYINDA writes
SHE is a wife, mother and politician all wrapped in one. She is Chienge’s and Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD)’s first female member of Parliament (MP).
Born on March 6, 1969, Given Kwempe Katuta Mwelwa is the eighth out of the 16 children of Abraham and Catherine Katuta.
Given won the Chienge parliamentary seat with 8,319 votes in the August 11, 2019 general elections against her closest rival, Abel Musonda, of the Patriotic Front (PF) who collected 7,676 ballots.
I was controversial, vocal and usually took up leadership roles in school, but never dreamt of becoming a politician. My father, who was a politician in his own right and supported UNIP, however, noticed a politician in me from an early age.
Because of my father’s involvement in politics, I was exposed to the world of politics and grew up to interact with children of politicians. I grew up hating injustice and standing for what I believed in, and this has remained in me.
I do not like to see anybody being oppressed.
The Sun: About your family?
Given: My father was a teacher who had 16 children. Raising a large family was not easy, but I appreciate that he gave my siblings and I the gift of education.
My father, Mr Katuta, managed to produce a unionist, a uurse, a pilot, a chef, an accountant, a professor and now a politician. He, unfortunately, died of cardiac arrest in 2001.
The Sun: Educational background and career?
Given: I attended primary school at Mpika primary and secondary school, at Kasama Girls and Lubuto secondary schools. I completed my secondary school education in 1987.
In 1988, I got my first job at the Zambia Consumer Buying Corporation (ZCBC) as a till operator. I quit after being frustrated by the work schedule, among other factors.
I studied Purchasing and Supply and in 1991 got another job as a chief buyer for Kabwe Municipal Council, where I was working at the time of my marriage. After joining my husband in Lusaka, I worked for the Zambia Institute of Chartered Accountants as sales and marketing officer.
In 1998, I left for South Africa where I worked as a marketer. I returned to Zambia in 2010 and established my own brokering company.
The Sun: Balancing marriage life with politics?
Given: I am married to a businessman, who is also former Chreso University vice chancellor, Dr Lawrence Mwelwa, and we have been blessed with seven children.
My husband and I also adopted my late brother’s two children. My husband is a strategist who has been supporting me from inception. My husband is my fundraiser, sponsor and advisor.
He does everything for me and I’m very comfortable being in politics because I have the full support of him and our children. My children, especially the young ones, complain that I am hardly at home for them.
But when we find time, we go with them in the outskirts just to be together as a family.
The Sun: Your inspiration?
Given: I draw my inspiration from Liberian former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who I admire with my courage. I will also never cease to speak highly of my party president, Edith Nawakwi, the only female heading a political party in Zambia at the moment.
I can describe her as a woman who has braved the hostile political environment in the country.
The Sun: Your political life?
Given: I started politics on the ground at the age of 19. I did not join politics for money but for the people of Chienge that have been suffering for a long time.
I felt that the people of Chienge needed someone to represent them in Parliament.
When I went to the village in 2012, I discovered that the constituency was still backwards as it was when I was growing up and I got concerned.
I realised the people needed someone with a strong voice to bring to the attention of any government in power to help the people of Chienge in particular.
I tried to stand on the PF [Patriotic Front] ticket with the help of my husband, who tried his best but was unfortunately turned down as their preferred candidate on grounds that they did not know me.
I received a call one day from the FDD, and I was asked to stand on their party ticket. I was welcomed well by the people of Chiengi and they encouraged me so well because they wanted someone they trusted would take development to the area.
The Sun: Achievements in the constituency?
Given: I managed to get scholarships for over 100 vulnerable children in the constituency. We now have two radio stations that will be operational this year and I have made sure that projects of constructions such as Kalungwishi School are being worked on.
The road that has never been tarred since independence is being worked on by Government.
We are also ensuring that the repairs of about 15 boreholes that were broken down are functioning.
I have also started working on the roads that were impassable using CDF [Constituency Development Fund] for our farmers when taking their produce to market places.
I bought a grader through CDF funds that is currently used to clear the roads in the area before they are tarred.
And government recently signed a memorandum of understanding that will allow people in the constituency to have tap water.
The Sun: Challenges in accessing funds for development as an opposition MP?
Given: Not really, because I believe the PF government has realised that I’m the person that the people voted for and they know that the President was voted for by the people of Chienge.
So, the biggest part is that they voted for the President as well, and not the MP alone.
Government has been introducing many programmes. I would like to boast that Chienge is one of the four districts in Luapula Province that are going to benefit from the Aqua Agriculture through DBZ and CEEC.
The Sun: Developmental projects lined up?
Given: I’m thinking of coming up with food processing plants because Chienge has got lot of mangoes, guavas and oranges. So we need to have an investor who can make use of the situation and will also employ the local people.
We also have one potential mine in Chief Puta’s chiefdom that we will try to develop and create employment for the local people.
There are more potential mines there.
The Sun: Your aspirations?
Given: Well, I will say that my aspiration has not been much. As you are aware, I did not join politics so that I could make money or make it a career. If I can see what I have been asking for from the government such as roads, schools, hospital for Kalungwishi District then I’m okay.
I want to see these things and ensure that our constituency is developed so that when I go to resettle there, I will know I will be resettling in an area that will have all the services that will be needed in daily life.
Otherwise, I do not have intentions of becoming what people may think. If anything, 2026 will be my last year being member of Parliament.
The Sun: What has being an MP taught you?
Given: It has taught me to be patient. I was a hot-tempered person who was always in the fast track. I was not a good listener but have now learned to be more tolerant.