THE decision by UPND president Hakainde Hichilema to appoint party national chairperson Mutale Nalumango as vice-president is exciting, refreshing and comforting. We have several reasons why we feel this choice is good, and why we would encourage the UPND leadership to go ahead and pronounce her as the party’s running mate candidate ahead of the coming elections.

1. Mutale Nalumango is a woman: One of the best appointments that President Edgar Lungu has ever made since his election into office in 2015 is the appointment of a female Vice-President – Inonge Wina. Zambia has, for many years, suffered a deficiency of female leadership. We have been speaking about women empowerment at every gathering, in every speech, but in reality we have been pushing our women away into the abyss. Our women have been marginalized enough and it’s time that they were accorded top leadership positions so that they can have an impact in the decision making process. In fact, as a newspaper organisation, we don’t mind a law which would dictate that if a contesting party’s presidential candidate is a man, the running mate must be a woman and vice-versa. That is the inclusiveness that we want to see in our politics.

2. Mutake Nalumango is a tested leader: The newly appointed UPND vice-president has leadership experience. Ms Nalumango is a teacher by profession, rose to become a secondary school headteacher and later elevated to be the Secondary Schools’ Teachers Union of Zambia vice-president, before resigning to join politics in the year 2001. Her first attempt at partisan politics saw her elected member of parliament for Kaputa Constituency where she served for ten years, from 2001 to 2011. That’s not all, she has also served government and the people of Zambia as Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services (first female Chief Government Spokesperson) and Cabinet minister in charge of Labour and Social services under Levy Mwanawasa. She then rose through the political ranks until she was elected Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly – first female to hold the position. Ms Nalumango understands the political dynamics in Zambia. Mr Hakainde Hichilema has never been a member of parliament, he has never been a minister. He may be an accomplished businessman, but politics requires experience too. In our view, whatever political acumen Mr Hichilema lacks, gets cut down with the appointment of a tested politician, former MP, former minister and former Deputy Speaker, as his vice-president.

3. Mutale Nalumango has been loyal to the UPND: The people who joined UPND at the same time as Ms Nalumango have since left the party. This woman kept her faith in the leadership of the UPND. Such people deserve to be rewarded. This is the woman who escaped death in a helicopter incident during the 2015 presidential election campaign in Shiwang’andu. PF cadres stoned the UPND campaign helicopter as it attempted to land. The people whom she was with in that helicopter have moved their loyalties elsewhere, but Ms Nalumango stayed. By appointing her vice-president, Mr Hichilema has shown respect to the party structures, to loyal members of the party. For once he has looked within the party and elevated a person who truly buys into his vision and not opportunists who come for convenience towards elections.

4. The UPND is loyal to Mutale Nalumango: If the election result figures from the recently held UPND convention in Lusaka are anything to go by, then there is proof that the party loves her. UPND members overwhelmingly voted for her above any other leader who contested leadership positions. This shows that the membership has confidence and trust in her. They respect her and hold her in high esteem. She has been loyal to the party and the party has been loyal to her.

5. Mutale Nalumango is scandal free: Just like Vice-President Inonge Wina, the newly appointed UPND vice-president is a woman who can walk tall in this country without worrying about having a dented public image from a scandalous past. If Ms Nalumango has made mistakes in the past as a leader, those mistakes do not include theft, corruption, immorality or treachery. Her record is as clean as you can get for a deserving national leader in Zambia.

6. Mutale Nalumango has a measured ambition: When you ask why she left a comfortable and promising position in the education sector, Ms Nalumango will tell you that she simply wanted to develop Kaputa Constituency where people had no access to health facilities and mothers were dying during labour as they crawled to the hospital far, far away. After that, the rest of her appointments in government came as a shock to her. She has a measured ambition for leadership. The running mate clause in our Constitution can be dangerous for an excessively ambitious vice-president because it says once the President dies, or vacates office, the running mate takes charge. Let’s face it, no President would be comfortable having a super ambitious vice-president who is thirsty for power. Such a vice-president can kill just to get the easy way to the top.

7. Mutale Nalumango is from the North: By all means, this was obviously one of the determining factors for her appointment. The UPND has suffered a great deal of a tribal tag – imaginary or real. The party has been appointing vice-presidents from all the regions, just to get rid of this tag. In the recent past the party has had Mr Francis Simenda from Western Province; they had Mr Richard Kapita from North Western Province, then came Dr Canicious Banda from the East and finally Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba from the North. It’s needless to mention that all the four names above betrayed the party and sold to the highest bidder. The Bemba circuit or the Northern block has been a big factor in our politics today. We will be very surprised if the Patriotic Front will go to the elections this August with a presidential candidate or running mate who is not from the Northern region.

It is our considered opinion that the UPND president has made a good choice on Mutale Nalumango. Now he has to be decisive and consider her as his running mate ahead of the 2021 general elections. It’s better to lose surrounded by loyal people, than to win with wolves in sheep skin. The ball is now in the PF court, we are waiting.