Zambian lawmakers excuse gender violence

Date: November 24, 2010
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September 2010 cast a dark cloud over Zambia’s chances of ending gender-based violence when two political leaders violently assaulted their wives.

Early September, Opposition Patriotic Front (PF) Member of Parliament for Kasama Central and prominent Lusaka businessman Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba beat up his wife after a dispute at their residence in Lusaka.

About two weeks later, Livingstone District Commissioner Francis Chika also assaulted his wife after a domestic argument.

Both incidents were widely reported in the Zambian media.
According to a medical report, Chika’s wife suffered a swollen nose, bruises on the left cheek and general body injuries.

And a medical report from the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka on 6 September found that Mwamba’s wife sustained a cut on the forehead, bruises on the left and right shoulder and bruises on the left eye.

“Fists are alleged to have been used in the act. Beaten and assaulted by a known person,” the report read in part.
After the matter was reported in the media, Mwamba confessed to beating his wife on a community radio station in his constituency.

In the name of love

Mwamba said he beat his wife because he loved her.
“If a man and his wife do not fight, then they don’t love each other. I beat my wife because I love her,” he said.

He went on to say that sometimes his wife beats him, adding that he had problems with his spinal cord due to beatings from his wife.

He said it was a domestic issue. However, what Mwamba and other leaders should know is that they are role models.

No one put it more succinctly than Human Right Commission of Zambia Chairperson Pixie Yangailo: “Leaders in particular must take care to show an example to the rest of the population that they are leaders, not only in politics, but also in family life and other areas of society.”

In addition, the Non-governmental Organisation Coordinating Council of Zambia said women were disappointed with Mwamba’s conduct; especially that he was a lawmaker who was supposed to observe high moral standards.

Mutinta Mulenga, a house wife, said she feared for women in the country.

“These leaders are setting a bad example. Does Mr. Mwamba know that some women have died at the hands of their husbands? What kind of love is this? I think he is living in a different age,” she said.

No remorse

Even after being suspended from his position as chairperson for elections in PF, Mwamba has shown no remorse. Soon after his suspension he told constituents that “you should know even if I am an MP, so doesn’t an MP fight with a wife?”

PF, the main opposition party in the country, has a lot more work do if it is to be seen as a progressive party that is going to uplift the status of women in the country if elected into office.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development requires that State parties shall by 2015 enact and enforce legislation prohibiting all forms of gender-based violence. How is this realistic if the very MPs meant to enact such legislation are shrugging off gender-based violence in their own homes?

What’s worse, PF has more female MPs than any other party in parliament, but not one of them came out in the open to condemn Mwamba. If it was an MP from the ruling party, these MPs would have shouted the loudest, but since it was one of their own at the centre of the story they decided to keep quiet. It appears that a wrong is only a wrong if committed by an MP from another party.

Tip of an iceberg

Mwamba’s case is symptomatic of what is seriously wrong with the kind of leadership found in the Zambian parliament. Some MPs have no respect for the rights of women. More than a year ago, another MP referred to women as sex objects and, to public dismay, he is still in parliament.

Such acts by male Zambian parliamentarians have prompted United Church of Zambia Bishop Sydney Sichilima to call for better scrutiny of those aspiring for political office.

“Let’s not vote for political leaders that are in the forefront of destroying the integrity of women in our country. Such people are incapable of running their own homes, how could they run matters of the country?” Sichiliman said.

Political parties should take Bishop Sichilima’s advice seriously and adopt candidates with clean records as the country heads for elections next year.

Awareness needed

Furthermore, there is a serious need to educate Zambian lawmakers on provisions set out in the SADC Protocol to which Zambia is signatory. Such profound ignorance as expressed by Mwamba shows that there is lack of communication between the people that sign treaties and members of parliament.

During the opening of parliament President Rupiah Banda said his government would rather empower women than batter them. But the president will find it hard to empower women when the people expected to review and reform laws pertaining to eliminating gender-based violence are in the forefront of abusing women.

The Zambian parliament must educate its members if the country is to make any meaningful progress in the remaining five years. The country cannot afford to have ignorant lawmakers at a time when other SADC countries are racing towards the targets set out in the Protocol.

Valentine Chanda is a Zambian journalist and member of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia. This article is part of a special series on the 16 Days of Activism for the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service that offers fresh views on everyday news. For the research quoted in this article and more information on the 16 Days Campaign go to



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