Life could present a whole bunch of surprises sometimes. Kampamba Mulenga’s rare journey from a sex-worker to a government minister is one case in point.
Her walk to the level she now occupies has not been without trial and tribulations.
Defiant, she has sailed through all cards dealt to her by life.
From strenuous previous relationships to warming beds of sex-starved men as a means to earn a living, Kampamba has endured it all. The latter is hugely frowned upon if not detested in a traditional Christian Zambian society – a ghost of the past that has come to cling onto her reputation even after she’d been proving doubters wrong by thriving where most men would probably have failed, to becoming a minister in the current Zambian leadership.
Her appointment as information minister three years ago inevitably set tongues-wagging amid pockets of opposition to her entry to Government House.
Old pictures of her in raunchy clothing became the juicy bits of the news and papers spared no time in flaunting them for their cover stories.
Edgar Chagwa Lungu, the landlocked Southern African country’s president received slack for his decision to pick Mulenga. Kampamba’s appointment soon became a public topic with most making reference of her past. But unruffled, she walked the troughs of stigma with a defiance reflective of her strong character.
“I am a changed person who deserves to be welcomed and accepted in the society,” said Mulenga days after news of her appointment broke.
Detractors were at it with some sarcastically suggesting she bedded him to the ministerial portfolio.
“How did she get appointed? By lying on her back I guess. Her prostitute business paid off, and I guess she had been upgraded to the high level of the trade,” Prince Funmmy taunted.
Another said: “Africa's countries and trash, so they don't have who is more qualified for the post, except the confirmed sex worker.”
Born 43 years ago in a humble background, the mother of three is a certified healthcare provider.
Marriage hasn’t been a steady climb for the now minister of Livestock and Fisheries.
She entered into matrimony for the fourth time in October last year. Footage of her in an immaculate wedding gown went viral.
Her previous three marriages were short stints tainted by extra-marital affair allegations.
Retired Zambia international footballer Tenant Chilumba was her former spouse before reported relationships with Professor Mwanalushi’s son and Shimumbi followed who, it is widely claimed, funded her political campaigns.
However, the waves have finally steadied after her recent marriage to businessman Kizito Chewe.
Her Political Journey
Being the only female Member of Parliament amongst the 22 lawmakers in the Copper-belt, Kampamba Mulenga has fought her way to Manda Hill.
She was among several female parliamentary candidates on the Copper belt adopted by various political parties to contest the August 11 parliamentary elections.
However, all her colleagues lost, and she pulled through alone.
Her victory was good news for gender activists but the fact that she was the only female MP in the second largest province in terms of registered voters; this was a source of worry to people who follow women politics closely.
Between 2011 and 2016, the Copper belt had four elected female Members of Parliament in Kabushi (Ndola), Chifubu (Ndola) Chililabombwe and Lufwanyama.
Back to Kampamba, her election proved that being consistent in politics can take one to the national stage.
At a personal level, she was a mother of three who still did household chores like any other mother.
Even when news reporters met her at that time for an interview, the Kalulushi MP was busy in the kitchen preparing food for her family.
Her rise to national prominence was out of hardwork.
“I was first elected party District Treasurer. Later I was elected the first District Chairperson for the Patriotic Front in 2011. At that time, it was difficult to win such a position as a woman and we were still in opposition,” said Kampamba.
She says her hard work in the party led to late President Michael Sata recognizing her and making her part of his government.
"President Sata later appointed me District Commissioner for Kalulushi."
It was this civil service position which helped position Kampamba well with the people of Kalulushi, a town which has one constituency.
In that role, Kampamba was one of the few female District Commissioners in the Copper belt.
Even after leaving the office a few years ago, she went back to politics and stealthily prepared for the adoptions ahead of the 2016 parliamentary elections.
As usual, she was pitted against men within the ruling party but she prevailed. During the actual elections, she won against all the other five male contestants.
“I will work hard and inspire more women to stand as MPs in 2021. We need more women to take up leadership positions. And for the people of Kalulushi, I want to assure them that I will not disappoint them, I will work towards my campaign promises and develop our constituency,” she said at the time.
As she embarks on her five-year term at Manda Hill, the hopes of people in Kalulushi is that she will carry on the mantle and deliver where men could have failed to deliver.