NOMSA NKANA, Lusaka
INONGE Mutukwa was 18 years old when she quit village school to marry a university graduate and one of the hottest eligible bachelors around.
His name was Arthur Wina, a man history will remember as a nationalist and freedom fighter.
But her father, concerned about the future of his daughter, only gave his blessing to the union, on condition that the young man signed a piece of paper committing that marriage would not stand in the way of Miss Mutukwaâ€™s education.
Thankfully, it didnâ€™t and Miss Mutukwa went on to become Mrs Wina.
â€œI donâ€™t know what he saw in me. I was just a village girl and he was a graduate of Makerere University in Uganda. I walked seven kilometres to school like many others. I fetched firewood, pounded millet and swam in the crocodile-infested river. There was nothing special about my upbringing, except that I went to Barotse National School now Kambule Secondary School, a school which, by the standards of those days, was for the brightest students.â€
Her husband kept his word. â€œWhen he went to America for further studies, I went with him and enrolled at Santa Monica High School in California, completed my secondary education and went on to study Social Work at Santa Monica College.â€
Mrs Wina leans back in her chair in the comfort of her home, clasps her hands, displaying well-manicured nails painted deep red as she tells the author the story of her life.
In what she calls the trials and tribulations of growing up in the village, Mrs Wina says, â€œAt certain times of the year during floods I would go to visit my grandmother at another village where we would use a canoe to go to church.
And dressed in my Sunday best, we would paddle all the way to church but get there all smart and wet,â€ she says, bursting out in laughter.
And one day when she had to go and fetch fire wood, the playful side got the better of her when she thought there was no harm in her taking some time off her arduous â€˜scheduleâ€™ to swim in the river.
She played around in the water, swam for the most part until a crocodile chased her.
Panting at the close call of death, Miss Mutukwa vowed never to go in the water again and out she went like a good girl to fetch firewood.
Had she been a meal for the croc that day, today she would not have been the one to make history as Zambiaâ€™s first female Vice-President.
It could be said, â€˜if you have destiny in you, nothing can stop it, not even a croc.â€
Upon coming back home in 1964, Mrs Wina joined the Young Christian Women Association (YWCA) where she became the first general secretary and, thereafter, rose to the position of national president.
Born on April 2, 1941 to Siwinji Mutukwa and Princess Mutende Lubasi at Suibumbu Village in Senanga, Inonge Mutukwa Winaâ€™s passion for community work started as far back as the early 1970s when she gave free service to womenâ€™s movements.
At that time, talk about womenâ€™ involvement in political and developmental issues began to emerge.
â€œWomen began to realise that fighting to be in decision-making positions on their own was not yielding fruit so they formed the Non-Governmental Coordinating Council (NGOCC),â€ Mrs Wina said.
But her service to humanity has not made her immune to tragedy when in 1995, the cold hand of death took away her confidante who was her husband.
Despite this setback, she eventually picked herself up and continued with her work when in 1996, she was elected national chairperson of the NGOCC.
Tragedy struck again years later when she lost her two sons Namakando and Liswaniso and now only has one surviving daughter, Mutende.
Mrs Wina has been known to have a way of working through her trying times often continuing with her selfless service.
In 2000 after leading the womenâ€™s movement in the Green Ribbon campaign in defence of the Zambian constitution, NGOCC began discussing womenâ€™s participation in politics where Mrs Wina says it was decided she gets involved.
She was skeptical about this because of the challenges she observed her late husband go through politically and also the fact that her organisation was not a political party.
But she, however, was convinced to join the United Party for National Development (UPND) under late founder Anderson Mazoka.
On UPND ticket in 2001, Mrs Wina contested and was subsequently elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Nalolo constituency.
Initially when she stood as MP, she went into it with misgivings but her interactions with people at the grass roots made her appreciate their plight and a deep desire to serve them was ignited.
But, attending Parliament at the time was a whole different experience for Mrs Wina.
â€œThe atmosphere was overwhelming. The mannerisms and culture of Parliament is male-oriented. Issues of equality of sexes come into play. But I have nothing to fear now, especially that Iâ€™m coming to Parliament at this mature age,â€ she laughs.
And in the 2006 presidential and general elections, Mrs Wina re-contested her Nalolo seat under the United Liberal Party (ULP) – a breakaway faction of the UPND.
She lost the election and petitioned the results in the High Court. The case was ruled in her favour but later overturned by the Supreme Court.
Thereafter she joined the Patriotic Front (PF) and in 2007 was appointed chairperson of the party.
From then to 2010 she worked towards organising and mobilising the party up to the run-up of the 2011 general elections where, again, she contested the Nalolo seat under the PF and won.
Late President Michael Sata appointed Mrs Wina as Minister of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs before moving her to be Minister of Gender and Child Development.
Mrs Wina says one of the trying moments of her political career was after the demise of President Sata when divisions rocked her party.
Some Central Committee members were holding divergent views over some developments in the party. When I went to London to bring back the body of our late President, I would get calls over rifts in the party and I agonised over what to do. I realised as party chairperson I was the glue that had to hold the party together. And so while mourning I was also pondering over my next course of action. My only friend was God,â€ she said.
She says it was humiliating for her to see party president Mr Lunguâ€™s candidature being challenged in court and also former first lady Dr Christine Kaseba being ridiculed for standing as presidential candidate.
Mrs Wina states it was not the wish of Dr Kaseba to stand but that she was requested by some individuals who thought she could save the party from collapse.
And ever since assuming office, Mrs Wina has hit the ground running sometimes acting as President and also ensuring her party delivers on its campaign promises in so little time as the 2016 elections draw near.
The new position she has assumed means she cannot afford the luxury of sleep as before. She now has to wake up as early as 05:00 hours and end her day by 23:00 hours at night.
One snag about her new position is that she cannot interact with people as she used to before, a thing she misses dearly.
And in her free time which she used to enjoy before her new job, she loved gardening as evidenced by some â€˜Garden and Homeâ€™ magazines displayed on her coffee table and magazine rack.
Her gardens are well designed with manicured lawns, plants, flowers and shrubbery. She says she enjoys seeing things growing from the ground.
And Petronela Chisanga, who deputised Mrs Wina at NGOCC, describes her as a fearless woman who led the Green Ribbon campaign – â€˜No Third Termâ€™ in defence of the constitution during late President Chilubaâ€™s reign.
She also recalls a time when Mrs Wina, herself and others were imprisoned for demonstrating at Zambia police force headquarters against alleged police passivity in investigating the mysterious deaths of four girls who were murdered within weeks of each other.
â€œThey told us we disgraced the president by protesting at a time when his motorcade was en route to the airport,â€ she said.
Mrs Chisanga says Mrs Wina is a person who is resolute in her beliefs, adding that in prison, when she was visited by late President Sata who was then in opposition, she told him, â€œMr Sata, we donâ€™t want politics here. All we want to know is what happened to our children,â€ and with that, Mr Sata left.
She has no doubt Mrs Wina will deliver as Vice-President as she has a vast knowledge of Zambia and the rule of law.
And veteran politician Vernon Mwaanga said Mrs Wina is competent to handle the office of Vice-President as she has a solid academic foundation and experience of Zambian politics.
Mr Mwaanga, who has known Mrs Wina since 1963, said she is a stable and mature woman who has excellent leadership qualities.
â€œI know that being Zambiaâ€™s first female Vice-President, Mrs Wina will work hard to lay a precedent for her fellow women folk who are aspiring for decision-making positions. She will not want to let them down,â€ he said.
He said he has known Mrs Wina to be a person who has the ability to exercise sound judgement which is pertinent to the position she now holds.
And former executive director of Women for Change Emily Sikazwe who has known Mrs Wina for over 20 years said Mrs Wina is a committed family person who enjoyed a close relationship with her late husband.
â€œThey married young and were in politics together so they had a lot in common,â€ she said.
Mrs Sikazwe describes Mrs Wina as a grandmother who dotes on her grandchildren, taking them to school, picking them up and generally being there for them.
â€˜This is the dedication I believe she brings to her job,â€ she said.
NOMSA NKANA, Lusaka