They say blood is thicker than water, but Mutinta Mazoka insists she did not use the blood measure when she chose her father’s political party over her husband’s.
WHEN it comes to choosing which political party ticket to stand on in the August elections, Mutinta Mazoka could write a book.
Why not? Mutinta, who is aspiring to stand as member of Parliament for Munali Constituency under the United Party for National Development (UPND), found herself torn between two big names in her life, two political parties and two ideologies.
The 43-year-old political scientist is Anderson Mazoka’s daughter, who founded the UPND over two decades ago, and she is also Socialist Party leader Fred M’membe’s wife.
Now Dr M’membe is a socialist who idolised the former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and of course Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
“The day I will meet Fidel Castro, you can let me die,” he would proclaim.
Well, he never met Fidel Castro, and so he is still here.
But what does Mutinta think of socialism? She kind of chooses the middle lane.
“Me I don’t believe in following these hard-lined ideologies, because even when you sit down and say you are a capitalist party, the society has to be structured in a particular way to be capitalistic. But in Africa that is not possible; to be one extreme or the other. You have to balance the two,” she says.
She says there is no one-size-fits-all political ideology, and parties must avoid copy and paste.
But she argues: “It’s difficult for any party in Africa to not have a socialist component with all the poverty around. I think when my father founded the party, he had a social inclination as a Zambian, the spirit of Ubuntu, where you are your brother’s keeper.”
“And most important, what I think we should do as political parties is to understand the nature of our people, the needs of our people, which will then give us the approach we need to take to provide for our people,” she adds.
But she says despite their different political beliefs, she and her husband do not bring the arguments to the dinner table.
“I think we have a mutual respect for each other’s approaches. What is fundamental, I think, is what we both want for the country? And I think our hearts are both in the right place. We might not just agree on how to go about it, but we do not sit down and argue,” she says.
“I know he has the best interest of the country at heart; I have the best interest of the country at heart, and I have made the decision to go this way. I will not stand on the podium and insult my husband or de-campaign him. That is not my character. He has that right and I equally have that right,” she says.
“That level of tolerance is what we need to adopt as a people. You having different views should not make me hate you; it should not break the fabric of our society – such things as peace – because I feel my view is superior to yours,” she says.
And asked about loyalty to her husband, she says: “I’m a citizen of this country, so I also have to be loyal to me.”
Mutinta is assertive and in her own words, stubborn. And although it appears to some that she entered the political field late, she says she has always wanted to be in politics.
After attending a number of prestigious schools in Zambia and in the United Kingdom, she studied political science at Syracuse University in the United States.
It is an Ivy League university whose alumni include President Joe Biden.
“I always knew I wanted to be in politics,” says Mutinta. “For me that was my calling. It’s just one of those things that I had known from a young age.”
And while at Syracuse, she got actively involved in student politics and even served as a union president. She also sat on the governing board of the predominantly white university as a student representative.
“That was an interesting position because it had never been occupied by a woman, and I was the first black person to ever hold that position,” she says.
“I feel that I have always been involved in politics. For me, all I have done is shift the platform. I have always been involved in some form of political activity, but not the way you see politics in its traditional sense,” she says.
After graduating from university, she got involved in fundraising activities for her father’s political party in Atlanta, US. But that is all.
After the death of Anderson Mazoka in May 2006, it seemed as though the Mazoka family had suffered the same jinx like many of Zambia’s big politicians who, it seems don’t deposit their political DNA in their offspring. Nobody heard of a Mazoka, save Mutinta Mazoka, who was Anderson’s wife. She is still MP for Pemba.
Yes, although Mutinta shares the same name with her mother, she was named after her paternal grandmother. And by sheer stroke of serendipity, her maternal grandfather was called Anderson just like her dad.
RIDING ON THE MAZOKA NAME
Will she be riding on her father’s name?
“I think that is inevitable. I mean I don’t want to sound ungrateful and say no, because I could take away from him being my parent and my role model,” she says.
“Yes I will be standing on his shoulders. But I’m not trying to fit into my father’s shoes. My quest is to carve my own niche and represent things from my own perspective,” she says.
And she says nothing is being handed to her on a political silver platter just because she is a Mazoka.
“I have to do it twice as hard as everybody else because I’m a Mazoka. But even for my own sake, for my own record, and for posterity I have to prove myself so that I know it is merit-based,” she says.
In Munali Constituency, she has been involved in community projects, teaching women small income generating skills like making decorations.
“I always had that connection to people,” she says.
Mutinta, who obtained her master’s in business administration, is passionate about education, and it is one of her top priorities in her manifesto.
“My father always said ‘I have two responsibilities; one is to feed you and the other is to make sure that I educate you’,” she recalls.
She says education transformed the life of her parents, who both came from poor backgrounds.
“My parents benefited from excelling academically and working hard; the results show. In the same way, I feel that other people should have that opportunity,” she says.
And although she was born in a privileged family, Mutinta says: “I can get high, and I can get down.”
“Some people think I’m a slay queen. I’m not,” she says.
When she lost her job in the US during the credit crunch, Mutinta plaited hair to earn income.
And when she was in university, she did odd jobs to raise money to buy a new car, because, though he could well-afford it, her dad only sent her US$500 for a car. She bought a battered car which only ran when it wanted and she soon got fade up with it.
Mutinta says her father had a very cosmopolitan and liberal approach to life. Not so her mother.
“He was a balance of both,” she says about Anderson Mazoka. “He was liberal, but also could be very firm. The strict one was my mother. We used to call her Hitler. Dad was the one we could run to if we wanted to get away with things. Mom was a strict disciplinarian,” she says.
Ironically, her mother shares the same birth date with the father.
But in retrospect, Mutinta now appreciates her mother’s strictness.
And in describing her husband, she says: “He is a tough guy, but he is also a person who is highly principled and is very determined. Once he sets his goal on something he will – through hell or high water – kind of go through it.”
“He is a person who has been misunderstood quite a bit, but I think it comes with the nature of one’s job,” she says.
But she also talks about his softer side.
“He is a ka sensitive guy,” she says giggling. “He is affectionate. He is touchy-feely when around his children; he hugs them and says ‘I love you’. That is probably something that people wouldn’t expect.”
Mutinta has three children with Dr M’membe.
“I have learned discipline from him. I have learned that when you make a decision, own
it,” she says.
“We are fallible human beings, that is why we are on this planet. If any of us were perfect, we would be in heaven,” she adds.
On the wall of her beauty spa at the family farm are framed black-and-whites of four women that inspire her.
There is Betty Kaunda, Miriam Makeba, Winnie Mandela and Angela Davis, who was a prominent figure in the Black Panther party in the US
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