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GIVEN Katuta.

Katuta: Miracle child born to rule

IN MARCH 1969, Abraham Katuta and his heavily-pregnant wife, Catherine, were travelling to the village to deliver their eighth child.
However, the vehicle they were travelling in was involved in an accident that left Catharine with serious injuries. She was rushed to St Paul’s Hospital in Nchelenge, Luapula Province, where doctors operated on her to save her life. There was little hope for the child she was carrying.
Actually, doctors at the mission hospital thought the child had died from the impact of the accident, but to their surprise, they discovered that the baby was still alive.
Thus was born Given Katuta on March 6.
The name “Given” was actually given to her by the Scottish doctor who delivered her, as she was considered a miracle child given by God.
But in her mother’s homeland, Given Katuta is better-known by her middle name Kwempe, which is a Bemba equivalent of the English “by a whisker”, a telling reminder of how she narrowly survived the accident.
And in the August 11 general elections, Given Kwempe Katuta narrowly won the Chienge parliamentary seat for the opposition Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD), to become the opposition party’s sole representative in Parliament.
Ms Katuta got 8,319 votes against her closest rival, Abel Musonda of the PF, who poured 7,676 ballots.
Assertive and vocal from an early age, Given Katuta usually took up various leadership roles in school, including leading in singing the national anthem at the school parade.
But the young Given never really dreamt of becoming a politician, although she was the most controversial and vocal in the house.
“I would say I was the most controversial child when it came to politics in the house,” she says.
However, her father must have noticed a politician in her daughter from an early age.
“I remember one day, my father was watching Condoleezza Rice on TV, and he said to me ‘ba mayo mukaba ififine, nokucilapo’ (you will become just like her, even greater),” she says.
Ms Rice was the Secretary of State in the United States government, who become one of the most recognised global figures.
Her father was also a politician in his own right, who strongly supported the United National Independence Party (UNIP).
“My father was a Unipist, who didn’t want to hear anything against his party,” says Ms Katuta.
And as a young girl, probably because of her father’s political involvement, Ms Katuta was exposed to the world of politics.
“I grew up to mix with politicians’ children,” she says.
She also talks of how she has grown up hating injustice and standing for what she believes in.
“I grew up to be somebody who hated injustice. Up to now I just hate injustice. I don’t like to see anybody being oppressed, and that makes me to be very vocal,” she says.
Ms Katuta recalls an incident when she was at Lubuto Secondary School in Ndola that almost got her into trouble. She was involved in the beating up of a mathematics teacher who was fond of meting out corporal punishment on the pupils.
“We beat him as a class. We were trying to defend ourselves,” she says.
Ms Katuta describes her family as “average”.
Her father was a teacher who fathered 16 children.
Raising such a large family was not easy.
“But my father gave us something good – education,” she says.
And the Katuta family has produced a pilot, chef, nurse an accountant, a unionist, a professor, and now a politician, if not two.
In fact, it was Given’s younger brother, Katai, who should have contested the Chienge seat in the August 11 polls, but he died on August 27, 2012 when his Jeep went off the bridge and plunged into the Luapula River.
Today, the wreckage of his vehicle can still be seen on the roadside, a monument of the tragic event.
“There was a time when I thought I should not run, but his death just pushed me to want to make it up for his wife and children,” says Ms Katuta.
She believes she won the seat for her brother and her father, who died of cardiac arrest in 2001.
A staunch born-again Christian, Ms Katuta believes she won the parliamentary seat through prayer and fasting.
“Without God’s presence in my political journey, I would not have made it. It took the bruising of the knees to get this seat. I’m telling you, without God, I would have been dead, I would not even have won. It’s fasting and prayer, fasting and prayer,” she says.
And this MP hopes to not only take development to Chienge, but the gospel as well.
She is already thinking of holding crusades in her constituency to win people to Christ.
Ms Katuta says serving the people of Chienge is a cause worthy to die for.
She lives a comfortable life, and says she did not go into politics for money.
“My husband feeds me, I’m comfortable,” says the 47-year-old.
“I’m in that Parliament to serve the people of Chienge and I want other members to learn from me,” says Ms Katuta.
“I will raise issues affecting the people of Chienge, I will not shut up when it comes to that,” she says.
And one of her priorities is water.
“I want my people to know what running water from a tap looks like,” she says.
Chienge is a rural constituency in Luapula Province, bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo.
And despite it lying on the Luapula River, many people in the constituency lack access to clean water.
Ms Katuta draws inspiration from Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who she admires for her courage.
She also speaks highly of the FDD president Edith Nawakwi, who was the only female candidate in the presidential race.
“She is a great woman who has braved the hostile political environment in Zambia,” says Ms Katuta.
She thinks Ms Nawakwi, who has contested four presidential elections before, will be President one day.
“Nawakwi can make a good leader,” she says.
So what has being MP taught her?
“It has taught me to be patient,” says the MP.
“I used to be someone who was in the fast track, who was not a good listener,” she adds.
“But now my phone rings anyhow, any time,” she says.
She also confesses to having possessed a hot temper, but has now learned to be more tolerant.
But she still decries some of the threats and abuse she suffered during the campaigns.
“I was insulted and called a prostitute,” she says.
Given Katuta is married to Dr Lawrence Mwelwa, who is vice-chancellor at Chreso University, a Christian university in Lusaka.
She speaks of him as a loving and caring husband, who supported her during the campaigns and in her new role as MP.
“I pray that more husbands will be like my husband and support their wives and trust them. If a woman comes from far and she gets a room at Parliament Motel, let the husband come and join her. My husband and I stay together at the Parliament Motel,” she says.
She says parliamentarians are supposed to promote family values as politicians.
Asked about being the only MP from her party, she says:
“Somehow, it is sad that I’m the only member of Parliament from the FDD, but at the same time, it gives me that courage to learn. Being in politics is not about being a baby, no one should baby-sit you.”
Ms Katuta started school at Mpika Primary School. She later attended other primary schools, before attending Kasama Girls Secondary School and later Lubuto Secondary School in Ndola.
She completed her secondary school education in 1987.
The following year, when she was only 17, Ms Katuta got her first job. She worked as till operator for the chain store ZCBC (Zambia Consumer Buying Corporation), but frustrated by the work schedule and other factors, she quit.
In-between job, Ms Katuta studied purchasing and supply.
And in 1991, she got a job as chief buyer for the Kabwe Municipal Council where she worked the time she got married, and had to join her husband in Lusaka.
She worked for the Zambia Institute of Chartered Accountants, where she was in charge of sales and marketing.
In 1998, she left for South Africa where she worked mostly as a marketer.
But in 2010, disappointed with her employer after she clinched a good deal during the world cup soccer tournament, she returned to Zambia and established her own company called ShiMweo Investments – a brokering company.