Only five women ministers in Zambia’s new cabinet

SANF 06 No 88
Re-elected Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa has announced a new cabinet that contains only five women holding full ministerial positions out of the total 21.

Mwanawasa was re-elected in the 28 September presidential polls for a second, five-year term of office, ending in 2011.

Unveiling his cabinet at State House in Lusaka on 9 October, Mwanawasa also appointed nine provincial ministers, all male, but he is yet to name the labour minister.

Veteran politician Rupiah Banda was appointed vice-president taking over from Lupando Mwape, who lost the parliamentary seat in his home area, Lukashya, in northern Zambia.

The Constitution bars the president from appointing to ministerial positions any losing candidates until the next term of office.

The president has constitutional powers to nominate eight members to the 158-seat National Assembly while 150 seats are elective.

Banda served as foreign minister and UN ambassador in the government of the country’s first post-independence president, Kenneth Kaunda.

Educated at Lund University in Sweden between 1962-1964, Banda has returned from retirement as a politician to help in consolidating the economic gains recorded in the last five years.

Mwanawasa named former Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation public relations manager, Angela Cifire, as one of the women ministers, as Minister of Health.

The other women cabinet ministers are Gladys Nyirongo, retained as Minister of Lands; Sylvia Masebo, who has been transferred to the Ministry of Local Government and Housing; Catherine Namugala, a new appointment as Minister of Community Development; and Sara Sayifwanda, also a new appointment as Minister of Gender at Cabinet Office.

Gender affairs was previously a Cabinet Office department headed by a deputy minister.

Of interest is the appointment of the former wife of the second President, Fredrick Chiluba, Vera Tembo, as the deputy Minister of Tourism.

Chiluba and Vera divorced in 2001. Mwanawasa’s government has been prosecuting Chiluba on corruption allegations.

Chiluba backed his former minister Michael Sata in the presidential elections.

Vera was sponsored by Mwanawasa’s MMD to contest a parliamentary seat in her home area in Eastern province.

Zambia is among the member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) that has not yet met the initial SADC target of 30 percent women at all levels of decision-making. SADC has now raised the target to the African Union commitment of 50 percent female representation by 2015.

A national census conducted in August 2000 showed that out of a population of 10.3 million in Zambia, 51 percent of the country’s population are women.

During the 28 September elections, the total number of women candidates for council, parliamentary and presidential elections fell well below the SADC targets.

The low female representation of less than 20 percent women in cabinet also comes against a background of the 1997 SADC Declaration on Gender and Development in which member states committed to progressively increase the number of women in decision-making to 30 percent by 2005.

The 30 percent target was later aligned to an AU commitment to increase female representation in decision-making positions to 50 percent by 2015.

This year’s SADC summit held in Lesotho endorsed the process of drafting a SADC Gender Protocol and directed the SADC Secretariat to ensure wide consultations with member states.

This will speed up activities towards the consideration of the protocol at the next SADC summit, to be held in Zambia in 2007.

The protocol is expected to effectively upgrade decisions on equitable representation into binding policy.

The SADC Gender Consultative Conference in December 2005 defined a regional gender implementation plan for five years and outlined a series of activities to be undertaken from 2006 to facilitate the adoption and signing of the SADC Protocol on Gender in 2007.

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