MWAPE MWENYA, JACK ZIMBA
CHISHALA Kateka has made her mark in the corporate world, and has often been described as a woman of valour.
The 64-year-old economist now steps into a different sphere – politics – as she heads the New Heritage Party.
However, she says joining politics is a decision her late father would not have approved.
“If my parents were alive I am sure they would have jokingly even asked if something was wrong with me because they did not like politics, especially my father,” she says.
The New Heritage Party is an organisation Ms Kateka salvaged from Gen. Godfrey Miyanda’s defunct Heritage Party.
The Heritage Party was founded in 2001 when Gen. Miyanda faced expulsion from the Movement for Multiparty Democracy when he opposed a third term bid by late President Frederick Chiluba.
The party went on to win four parliamentary seats in the 2001 general elections, but slowly slipped into obscurity and, eventually, into oblivion. It was deregistered last year.
Ms Kateka was a member of the Heritage Party from inception in 2001 and she talks highly of Gen. Miyanda.
She says she was motivated to join politics back then because of the suffering she witnessed.
“What motivated me to become a politician was when I worked for Kafue Textiles. I realised that people were not getting paid for many months and I was seeing their suffering and realised that leadership had something to do with it,” she says.
Though she did not continue on her political journey, she kept the dream to one day return to politics and make a difference.
And that dream was realised on Wednesday when Ms Kateka launched the New Heritage Party in Lusaka.
Ms Kateka becomes the fourth woman in Zambia to form and lead a political party. First it was Inonge Mbikusita-Wina and later Gwendoline Konie, and then Edith Nawakwi.
“People must realise that sometimes you need a platform in order to do good to people, you want to do good but you don’t have a platform,” says Ms Kateka.
The party launch was attended by a sizable crowd of members clad in bright yellow T-shirts and caps bearing the party’s messages in different local languages, and was characterised by singing by an acapella group, and poetry.
The new party looks pretty much like the old one. It has retained the symbol of “praying hands” and yellow as the party colour. It has also maintained the slogan ‘Zambia, our heritage’, and, most important, its ideology and ethos.
Gen. Miyanda was well-known as a man who strongly stood for integrity.
Ms Kateka is hoping to leverage on that.
She says she decided to take over the retired general’s mantle so as to continue riding on the legacy which he left.
“We carefully decided to use this party because we believe in what Gen. Miyanda stood for. People knew him as a man of integrity. He has handed over this party to us because he believes that we can carry on from where he left,” she said in an interview after the launch.
She says she comes on the political scene with intention to form a government of integrity.
“When I decided to enter politics, I looked at which party had the ideologies which can improve the lives of our people and I discovered that the Heritage Party had all that I needed,” she said.
She is optimistic that with the current political landscape, Zambians are looking for politics of integrity that can bail them out of the economic challenges the country currently faces.
Ms Kateka will, however, not be propagating Miyanda’s village concept, which many Zambians did not buy into.
But even before she sets sail, she already has to deal with gender stereotypes that portray women as sex objects, but she says she is ready for that.
“I read somewhere that Hakainde Hichilema’s long-time sidekick [mistress] has launched a party, but I don’t pay attention to such things and I don’t care unless there is some truth to it,” she says.
“In this journey, I don’t expect to have a smooth ride, I am sure that someday I will be insulted but it is up to how we handle it as an individual and as a party but we can always change this narrative by not insulting back, let us reason and work together,” she says.
She also dismisses assertions that the party has only joined the race to State House in order to spoil the votes in the 2021 general elections.
“Others are saying that we are a surrogate party. Surrogate to who? Those that know me and what I stand for will laugh out loud. I have continuously stood for and continue to stand for the cause of Zambia and its people,” she says.
She adds: “I am fully persuaded that it is time for Zambians to get a leadership that will be committed to steering the country in the right direction.”
She says many Zambians are not satisfied with the current options in the political race and are merely settling for what they consider a lesser evil.
Ms Kateka says it is sad that despite all the rich resources the country is endowed with, majority of Zambians continue to wallow in abject poverty.
“Most of our youths are unemployed despite earning a decent level of education and the dignity of our retirees has been robbed as they are forced to resort to begging in order to survive,” she says.
She says New Heritage Party pledges to get the country out of the grip of greed and mismanagement of resources.
“We are coming with a fresh approach, which with God’s grace and wisdom will not be just a ‘political’ solution but a solution for every individual, institution and business that wants this nation to stand on the international arena with their heads held high,” she says.
She says the vision of the New Heritage Party is to turn Zambia into an economic and productive hub in southern Africa by 2030.
The party’s economic framework is hinged on a redemptive, restorative, revitalising and strategic agenda.
The new party is yet to unveil its manifesto.
“We are inviting all Zambians that would like to add value to this great nation to join hands with us. Let us work together and build this nation. But we can only build the nation if we get this country back,” she says.
Ms Kateka graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Zambia in 1979. And in 1990, she qualified as a member of the Chartered Association of Certified Accountants (subsequently Association of Chartered Certified Accountants – ACCA.
Ms Kateka has been in charge of audits for a large number of financial institutions, including Bank of Botswana.
She was until May 2001 interim manager for Kafue Textiles of Zambia and she was the principal consultant for the World Bank on the Copperbelt Economic Diversification Workshop Project.
She subsequently became the coordinator of the National Economic Diversification Programme in Zambia, a project co-funded by the World Bank and the Zambian government.
Ms Kateka was also principal consultant for the World Bank on the 2002 Consultative Group meeting in Livingstone.
She is the author of “Let Us Pray for Zambia”, and also a familiar voice on radio as the presenter of a programme called ‘Occupy Till I Come’ on Radio Christian Voice.
Ms Kateka is a single mother and proud grandmother who exercises regularly.
She says it is the secret to her youthful look.
MWAPE MWENYA, JACK ZIMBA