By María Torrellas / The Dawn News / May 20, 2016
Interview with Melvis Mukupa, National Chairperson in charge of Women’s Affairs and member of the Rainbow Party’s Central Committee.
– What do you think of the Pan Africanism Conference?
It has been very educative, it was fruitful, we got knowledge out of it. There were some things we didn’t know as a political party, the Socialist Party, which deals with the ideology. This is the only party among the 40 political parties in Zambia that has introduced the socialist ideology. A while ago, if we think about the first President of the Republic, who was trying to practice the socialist ideas in The United National Independence Party, UNIP, it did not work. But according to the knowledge we have acquired from the conference, which is Pan Africanism, is that if we work hard, if we get united, we can make it. We can make it through communication with others and the ideas we’re getting from other people, the knowledge they have and the experiences they have gone through. Some of the topics which were being covered there, at least we caught the point, we caught the difference of it, here we got some knowledge which we didn’t have, that we didn’t practice. I think it’s the right time to start practicing the things we’re talking about and the things we’re being educated about.
-In this conference, the word “solidarity” is said all the time. Do you think that we need international solidarity?
I think international solidarity is needed because that’s what we’re missing. As a Socialist Party, I think that since we’re going to be running in the upcoming elections in the next four months, which will have the four seats which are the presidential, the parliamentary, the major, and the Consulates. This has been introduced by the new Constitution which has been produced in the past two months. I think every time we are with the people, meeting our colleagues, our members, all people in general I think that’s when we have to talk about solidarity, I think we have to talk about solidarity to all people in general, not just here and we have to take it into practice. We should not just be talking about solidarity, we should know the meaning of solidarity, what does it mean? That was something important we take from the conference.
-The Rainbow Party considers that socialism must be a worldwide issue. What do you think about that?
Yes, socialism has to be all over the world, but in Zambia, it was only spoken about by the United National Independence Party (UNIP) government, which was the first political party which introduced that in Zambia, and then governed the country. They talked about that but it was not taken into practice. The Rainbow party, being a new political party in Zambia, it is about one year and four months, it has introduced the ideology of socialism, solidarity and it’s the only political party that has introduced socialism. There’s not any other political party in Zambia that has done it. We have forty political parties in Zambia. But the only political parties that are active are five, including the ruling party. Among the other four, the Rainbow Party is the only socialist political party. It’s the only political party which understands socialism, it’s the only political party which has introduced socialism as an ideology. I think the other political parties are capitalist. The Rainbow party, among the other active political parties that are going to the elections on August 11th, is the only one which talks about socialism; and it’s the only one of the five which has an ideological system.
-You are involved in women’s issues. How is the situation of the women in Zambia and what are the women’s demands for liberation, for equality? What kind of activities do you do?
As the Rainbow party, as women in charge of the Rainbow party, we know that the women have been used by the political parties, they are usually paid 10 kwacha (which is just enough to buy a little bottle of Coke) to dance for those politicians, they are being used and dumped. They are not even considered to be given those higher positions in politics.
We consider women the common force of the country. As women, we have influence. Being a woman means a lot. Women are being heard wherever you go. Once a woman cries for something, something will come up. Once a community of women organizes, something will come up. Women, are the most influential people in most of the area, not only in Zambia, but worldwide. Women are people who are supposed to be respected in decision-making. But when it comes to Zambia, it’s something else. Women are being used, especially when it comes to politics. They sing for these politicians who are members of Parliament. Starting from the wad, who are chancellors, MPship (Members of Parliament) and the presidential seat. They are just being used to sing for them, they’re not being considered to be given those higher positions in the government. In the Rainbow Party we want women to have a continuous role, not to be used for a short period which can’t help women.
-What do you think of violence against women? Do women suffer from that sort of violence here in Zambia?
Yes, there is. We’re mostly going towards the elections because we’ve been experiencing this. Last week, what happened was that a lady was stripped naked. As a woman you’re supposed to be respected, you’re the mother of the world. We carry an important role in the world. That woman was stripped naked by guys of the ruling Party. As a woman in charge of women, I felt bad. This needs to be condemned. It’s not supposed to be supported by anyone. It’s bad that the President said nothing. He never took that into consideration. It was hateful.
-Do you have policies to change this violence against women?
Yes, we can do that by working hard and the only political Party which can do that is the Rainbow Party, because we respect women. It’s the only political Party, including the ruling party, where there’s discipline and there’s no violence against women. If one of our members tried to do something like that, we’d suspend that person. Leaders should set a good example.
-There’s much poverty in Zambia, and we know that poverty always affects women more. What are you going to do about this as a Party? How are you going to change this?
As the Rainbow Party is a new party, we’re trying by all means to create small communities. The poverty that we have in the country, is not only in Zambia, it’s worldwide. In the ruling party they don’t allocate enough resources to solve this. But the little money we have, as I have introduced as the national chairperson for women, is spent in educating my provincial leaders to help people in different ways, not only by giving them money. In funerals, they contribute with the little money they have. We try to donate something in funerals, for example, cooking something. By doing that, we identify ourselves as the Rainbow Party. And the other thing is that in weddings, we help that person with the little money we have to represent our party there. It has helped us to mobilize the Party in the country.
-Do you want to give out a message to all the women of the world?
I just want to encourage my fellow women all around the world to be strong, to stand up, they don’t have to be intimidated, they just have to be strong, to lead, to give an example to other women all over the world. So they just have to stand on their own and be united. Once you are together you can take the world forward.