Politics for strong women: Chisha Kateka’s tale
By KETRAL KALUNGA
CHISHALA Kateka is one of only three women in Zambia leading political parties, a seasoned economist and chartered accountant.
She is strong willed and the only woman to have staged a lone protest against the high cost of living for which she was harangued and belittled by the ruling UPND strong man William Banda.
Ms. Kateka stood in the 2021 general elections as New Heritage Party (NHP) presidential candidate, becoming the second female candidate after former Finance Minister, Edith Nawakwi, who is leader of the Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) party.
When Ms. Kateka, a respected corporate leader ditched her profession to become a full time politician, the choice she made was received with mixed feelings by stakeholders especially those from the business sector.
Q: Who is Chishala Kateka?
A: I am a Zambian businesswoman and a respected corporate leader who took part in the August 2021 presidential election under the banner of the New Heritage Party.
I have previously worked for the World Bank. I became the first woman ever appointed to Barclays Bank Zambia (ABSA) PLC as well as the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) boards as their Chairperson.
I also served on various other boards and committees in Government, quasi government and private institutions.
From 2012 to December 2017, I represented the African Jurisdiction on the International Ethics Standard Board of Accountants (IESBA) of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) in New York.
Ms Kateka is a Fellow Chartered Accountant and holds a Bachelor of Arts (Economics) from the University of Zambia.
Q: What is your leadership and political experience?
A: In 1976, I became the first female to be voted as University of Zambia Students Union (UNZASU) Treasurer.
I am the founder of Youth with a Vision for Zambia in 2004, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) addressing concerns of young adults aged between 18 to 40 years, especially with mindset change.
I am also a founding member of the Heritage Party registered as a political party 2001 under former Vice President, Brigadier General Godfrey Miyanda.
I revived the Heritage Party under the New Heritage Party (NHP) after the party had been wound up by Brig-Gen. Miyanda following his taking leave of active politics in 2020.
In 2021, I stood in the general elections as a presidential candidate on the New Heritage Party ticket as the only female candidate and took seventh position out of the 16.
I am currently leading the New Heritage Party as its President and looking forward to leading the party into government come 2026.
Q: Would you say you are where you want to be in life?
A: I feel that I have hit that space in my life where I feel more fulfilled doing what I am doing than I have ever done. I believe that I am able to positively influence a larger circle of people than in any of my previous roles.
Q: How would you describe Zambian politics?
A: Zambian politics, as in many countries, is at a crossroads. There is the old self-serving politics that we have had in the past and which we need to get out of if we want to see progress, and then there is a new kind of politics which is not about personalities and vengeance and name calling etc.
This new kind of politics is what Zambia needs. It is already here. The New Heritage Party and a few other political parties are already practicing this. That is why at the New Heritage Party, one of our five-point plans is the introduction of a new breed of leadership.
A new way of thinking is very critical to the resolution of the problems that the country is currently facing.
Q: Would you say you are doing well in terms of selling yourself to the public and interrogating the government?
A: I believe that I am doing well. As the New Heritage Party we are certainly being heard as we comment on most pertinent issues facing the nation. The feedback has been very good and encouraging.
Q: How easy is it to be a female politician in Zambia?
A: I see this as a calling and just as any other calling, there is need for grace to carry it out.
Of course, as a female politician, there are challenges that I face that may not be faced by my male counterparts, however in all fairness, I have not been receiving as many of those challenges as the younger female politicians.
I only recall two incidents where I had very insulting (with sexual connotations) comments. Other than that, I do not face challenges that are not common to all politicians.
Q: How did you find yourself in politics from being a respected corporate leader?
A: In every society, there are seven pillars that influence or impact the culture of that society, the financial/business sector, education, family, religion, entertainment and arts, media and government
Although all of these pillars are important, the most influential of these are government and religion. If I have to pick only one of these – I would have to say government because they affect each one of these in a very short time.
When you have people that are ill equipped, for whatever reason, take over the running of Government, the results are catastrophic. When that happens, the impact is felt downstream of our lives for generations to come. This dependency syndrome we see now started in the one-party state.
Long story short – more capable people ought to offer themselves to the service of the country at that level, otherwise we shall continue to have those that are less competent leading us and making a hash of things. I guess that is what I am doing.
Q: How do you balance politics and personal life?
A: I am a retired person and I have relinquished all my board responsibilities so my work no longer entails an 8 to 17 job. I therefore have time on my hands.
In addition to this, my family life is not demanding. My last born is married. I do have a grandson but I am not his primary responsibility giver – his parents are. I am, after all, a grandmother.
Q: How do you manage criticism?
When I am first criticised, a lot of things go through my mind. The first is to determine the motive behind the criticism.
After making that assessment, I then decide whether to accept and change course or to ignore the criticism. It is important to be receptive to criticism if it is constructive rather than destructive criticism
Q: Do you think women are easy targets of criticism and attacks in politics?
A: For some reason, I think that women are more prone to criticism than men.
It is not a secret that women in politics worldwide face various challenges which include among other lack of finances to advance their political careers, intimidation especially from their male counterparts, sexual and verbal harassment among as shown by statistics.
But for Ms. Kateka, these hurdles have not stopped her from penetrating the political scene which for many years have been viewed as men’s space. She is ready to offer herself to the service of the country as a politician.
Ms. Kateka is equipped to break all barriers in a bid to make an impact in politics with a view of becoming the first Zambian female President as she declared herself ready to stand again in the 2026 general elections.