By NAMO PHIRI
She is a generous person who derives joy in giving and serving people who are less privileged. She strongly supports women and says they should never give up on their dreams and must stand their ground to achieve this.
Princess Kasune Zulu is the Member of Parliament for Kembe Constituency and the Founder of a non-governmental organisation called the Fountain of Life Africa.
She is also the current deputy government Chief whip and also chairs the Zambia Women Parliamentarian Caucus.
Ms. Kasune sacrificed her home in the Copperbelt to start an orphanage which housed orphaned children.
Joining politics was never something that Ms Kasune wanted to involve herself in as she was never ready for the “dirty” career.
QUESTION: How do you introduce yourself to people?
Answer: My name is Princess Kasune, people also know me as Princess Kasune Zulu because for the longest time I carried my late husband’s name, so publicly I’m known as Princess Kasune Zulu.
Q: Tell me about your political journey
A: I came into politics in 2014, somewhere when I was pregnant with my last son. So what happened is that key stakeholders like the chiefs and the headmen began to ask me to run because I was already doing philanthropic work.
I was helping build schools, clinics and helping wherever I could, donating in hospitals, but I never really thought I would ever run for politics. So for me, it’s a little bit different that people asked me to run. And I used to look down on politics, like, Oh, I don’t want to be part of the criticism, you know. I was one of those people who believed that politics were dirty.
Education wise, I have two masters, one is in Divinity, which is a seminary degree, and one is in running NGO work. Those are my two masters from North Park University in Chicago. I went to business school and to seminary, so really politics was very far away from me, except that, in 2011 if not 2010, I built my first school ever with some friends and at the organisation that I founded called the Fountain of Life Africa.
And it was then that the, then MP Lieutenant-General Ronald Shikapwasha looked at me and said, I think I must have been maybe 35 or something like that, he said, I’ve never seen a young person who has such a heart, you would have chosen to live in America and never give back to your community, but here you are trying to uplift the lives of your people.
You know, when I get tired and I don’t run again, you should run, he said and I laughed it off.
Truth be told, being a politician looked like it would conflict with my work. Then Bishop Morris said to me, I don’t think that’s a conflict, in any case, I think it will make you be a different kind of a politician if that’s what it comes to, so just say. God, let your will be done. I was like ok. He said because look, you are already in NGO work.
In my NGO work I was running an orphanage back in the Copperbelt where I started with K50 that was about $10 those days all because I wanted to help some orphans or children who didn’t go to school. So I opened up our house and would give them one meal, and I made my two children not go to a private school so that money could be used to run the school.
I was running a one- woman show that kind of died out a little bit after some years because I moved to Kitwe with my husband.
But I still left that house for the orphans and the children and people thought I was running mad because at that time, my late husband was really struggling. We ended up staying in Chamboli, if you know the area.
He was demoted from assistant head of mine police. So life became very difficult, but, maybe because I was orphaned at the age of 17 and when I was 18, I became a teenage mother.
I always wanted to give back. I always wanted to rescue a child because part of me has always thought, what if I was given all the support? I had an aunt who really took me in her home, I’m forever grateful, but she was overwhelmed with her own six children, other dependents. So other, things that we needed, she couldn’t afford.
And so for me, when I was younger I dated older men, the sugar daddy syndrome, I mean, you call them blessers today, we used to call them sugar daddies. And unfortunately I became pregnant when I was only 18 and I dropped out from school.
And so because of that experience, I ended up finding out that I was HIV positive in 1997. So all this was happening at the same time, and I really thought I wanted to give back after finding out I was HIV positive. I really felt God saying, this is why I put you on this earth. I used to call it a vision for the world. Now I had no passport at that time so it was all just in my head, and I really used to feel like I used to hear voices and I think its God, you know, I hear voices say, go and do this.
One day I woke up dressed up like I was a conventional sex worker and hiked with truck drivers so that I could just tell them about the dangers of HIV and AIDS.
Not that I encourage it, but that’s what I did. And for some time, and a lot of people thought I was just joking, but I was determined. Part of the drive was that, the doctor said, I was just likely to live for six months because at that time they were like, well, there’s no treatment, you know, so maybe you live for six months, they didn’t know as well. So for me, I was like, okay, if I’m going to live for six months, I want to make a difference to someone else. I’ll go in hospitals, pray for people. And this is the time when people were laughing at people with AIDS.
Back to politics, even by 2016 I was still not sure and my husband was like, you are going to leave us. The family, you know, I have one son with him, and my son was only one year, seven somewhere there but I’m a very passionate person. I do things with a lot of passion, so I really thought this was the time and so I gave in, not that it was easy, so I had to leave the US and I came back.
I didn’t know exactly where I would end up, but I always had a passion to come back to Zambia and to give back so in 2009, after being in the US from 2005, working for World Vision and raising funds for not just Zambia, but a lot of African countries building schools, clinics, hospitals, we did a lot of child sponsorship programmes.
So by the time I gave in to say, okay, Lord, let your will be done, as the pastor had told me, we had just finished, building the maternity ward, or maternity clinic in Chibombo.
And Bishop Smith was asking me in May, Are you running? I said, I don’t think so but by the time the elections came in August, I had put my name down. I didn’t know what party, I didn’t know parties to start with, you know. But there is a man who is now the Chibombo DC who told me, Princess, I’ve been in politics for a long time.
He said, I’ll tell you which party to run on so you just wait, I was like, okay I didn’t even know the name of the constituency, Keembe and how vast it was and so I began to read up on it and that’s how I ran on the UPND ticket because he said, I think this is the party that you want to be with.
They’re similar to your values. They’re likely to win. You know, this was in 2016 and there will be more support in the area of Chibombo.
A lot of people thought I was very new, I knew I was to politics. I don’t have any family members who were really politically active, even though one of my brothers was, but not to that extent. And so I don’t come with any pedigrees, but I come with a heart to serve. And that’s what people saw. And that’s how I tried to continue to do and I won with a landslide in the 2016 elections.
When I commit to something, I can’t give up, I can’t just do halfway, I do it with all my heart and so I had to run and then of course the struggle being in the opposition I saw the gaps among women in politics and in my own tribe, so I wanted to bridge all that. I wanted to bring my networks, my connections. So being in opposition was not easy. I continued on the philanthropic side and that’s how we were able to continue to build schools. About 10 schools were built.
And so, in 2021, again, I thought, I’ll go back home. You know, my other home, in the US my son was now growing, was in first grade. And I said, I need to go. I asked two people a lady and a gentleman if they could stand but they both refused, and I had to stand again and today I am the deputy government chief whip and chairperson for the Zambia Women Parliamentarian Caucus.
Q: What development goals have you achieved in Keembe constituency,
A: Well, we have done a lot of things in Keembe. I have built schools, hospitals, among other things. I have also helped a lot of people in accessing education especially tertiary education, but I have also done a lot of work through my foundation the Fountain of Life Africa, so yah a lot has been done, we have over 300 boreholes and another clinic is underway which we are launching on October 31.
Q: What attracted you to politics?
A: Well like I said earlier politics was never my thing I was never into politics but with time I was influenced to join politics looking at the works that I was doing in the communities.
Q: How supportive is your family towards your political career?
A: Well my family is very supportive, my siblings and children are really supportive, except for my husband because my political career takes me away from home in the US and from him so yah but all in all he has come to accept the fact that I am a politician.
Q: How do you take criticism?
A: Well surprisingly I don’t get a lot of criticism but the few times that it comes in I try by all means to explain, but you know there are those people who will always accuse you of not being seen in the constituency even when you are always there , but for me I know my goals I know my job and mostly I just concentrate on that because you know, there are certain people who do not understand the roles of the member of parliament and therefore will blame everything on the MP even when you are not the one responsible for something.
Q: Do you think there is room for more women in politics .
A: Absolutely, yes room is always there, I think more women can occupy seats in parliament because there is no way that we could be having minimal representation by women in politics when the country’s population is dominated by women, so I think more women can join and together we can change the country, we need more women representation, as women we need to invite ourselves to the table, I think we are too mild as women. I think it’s time that changed.
Q: What advice would you give to women especially young ladies who want to join politics and other career that are dominated by men?
A: Find mentors, find someone like me who is able to interact with anyone regardless of their political affiliation, and also find someone who will support you financially and also sometimes it’s good to start from the bottom, so in this case you can start by volunteering and move through the ranks from there, begin to cultivate your career by doing small, small things in the constituency.
Q: What do you think stops more women from joining politics?
A: Well I think there are a lot of barriers that stop women. We have issues of husbands, some family issues and other norms you know beliefs that politics are for men and women are just supposed to be there to support the men, but for the women all I can say is just stand your ground and never give up.