Zambia’s generation game
It has become something of a trend for children of Zambian presidents to launch themselves into politics, and Edgar Lungu’s daughter Tasila is no exception.
She is following in the footsteps of Mulenga Sata, son of the late president Michael Sata, who served as minister for Lusaka Province then lost the Kabwata constituency election in August.
That same month, Lungu became a city councillor for the Nkoloma Ward in the Chawama area of Lusaka – a constituency her father represented as a member of parliament.
The 33-year-old US-educated politician is the best-known of Lungu’s six children. She is a volunteer child counsellor and a philanthropist. Her father describes her as “resolute”.
A big obstacle that she now faces is fighting off the claims of favouritism and benefiting from the family connection. Seeing her new political role, those who cannot access Lungu through established channels want to use Tasila’s closeness to her father to get his attention.
Tasila left Zambia with her mother for the US at the age of 12 and returned after her father’s victory in the January 2015 by-election, in which he was chosen to carry out the remainder of the late Michael Sata’s term as president. In August 2016 Egdar Lungu won a full term as president in a tight race and his opponent, Hakainde Hichilema, was arrested in October on sedition charges due to his protests about the handling of the vote.
While some of the sons of Zambia’s former presidents have reputations as high-flyers and troublemakers, Tasila’s handlers have been careful to portray her as humble, down-to-earth and full of humility. She has been campaigning, doing charity work and fundraising to build up her image among the grassroots population.
In March, she was baptised in the Catholic Church at St Ignatius in Lusaka – a parish whose priests, like Father Charles Chilinda, openly pray for ruling party officials. Although she does not enjoy the best relationship with her stepmother, Tasila often assumes the role of the first lady when Esther is not around. She is seen at her father’s side at major national events, including the high-profile National Day of Prayer.
Tasila did not announce her intentions without ruffling some feathers within the governing Patriotic Front (PF). In March, she said: “The amount of garbage I have seen [in Nkoloma Ward] is deplorable. I don’t think any human being deserves to live in such conditions. We need to find ways of clearing the garbage.”
That sent her team into a panic, as the comment was interpreted as an attack on her father. She has since stopped giving impromptu interviews to journalists. In addition to taking on the sanitation problem, Tasila has said that she will use her position to push for female empowerment programmes. Her stance on gender equality soon put Tasila in conflict with the PF once again.
Immediately after winning the ward election, she announced her candidature for the position of Lusaka deputy mayor, but the PF had already chosen Christopher Shakafuswa as its candidate. Tasila argued that gender-balancing principles meant that since the mayor is a man, he should be deputised by a woman.
That began a war of words, with PF secretary general Davies Mwila threatening to discipline any members who did not respect party decisions.
Showing that his daughter would not receive preferential treatment in this instance, President Lungu convened a meeting at State House on 24 September and told both Shakafuswa and Tasila to drop out of the race in order to preserve party unity.
Tasila is set to continue with her outreach programme of mentoring children and is due to roll out a shoe donation programme across the country. Though she has only just stepped onto the political ladder, Tasila clearly aims to take her career to the highest level: “I want to be like him [father] one day,” she says.
From the November 2016 print edition