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KNOW YOUR MP: Princess Kasune Zulu – HIV positive MP …an activist with a determined mind


SANFROSSA MANYINDA writes

SHE comes from a humble beginning, double orphaned at 17. She became a teenage mother at 18, a grade 11 school dropout, and discovered she was HIV positive at 21.

She was just a young vulnerable village girl of Chipopo village in Keembe constituency in Chibombo, rural Zambia.

Princess Kasune Zulu was born on January 6, 1976 and is the first  daughter of Mr. Goodson Moffat Kasune and Ms. Joyce Mwanamusulwe Kasune.

FAMILY

Well, I grew up in a polygamist home and I had 24 siblings. I was actually named Fridah by my mother, but my dad objected that I decided to be named Princess because I was a member of two royal families, Chief Mungule and Chief Liteta’s chiefdoms. It was also due to this fact that my family was affluent.

My father prophesied when I was very little that I was going to be a child among the royal family and I could not understand what he meant until I grew up. My father was a commanding officer for the Zambian Railway Police Force.

I was caught in between two churches as I was growing up because I was living in a house where people went to two different churches. My father was a Jehovah’s Witness and my mother was Catholic.

My mother died in October 1993 and my father died a few months later. Life became so hard and my siblings and I were separated and life became so tough.

CHILDHOOD

I loved acting and started acting at a very young age. I participated in some sketches in the neighborhood especially when we moved from Kabwe to Livingstone. I was very innovative and always thought of ways of making money.

I remember going to our neighbours who were rearing chickens to ask for chicken trotters that I used to cook and sell while we my friends and I were playing.

I was a tomboy and naturally I liked climbing trees and playing with cars of course influenced by my brothers who I was playing with. Our lives were all about playing but that good life did not last for too long.

My parents got sick in 1991 and my dad was fired from work and we moved to Chibombo. My father went from having a big house, driving Land Rovers and Land Cruisers to really coming on a train.

My mother continued working as secretary to the governor those years and ended up working at Chibombo District Council so that she could continue providing for the family. Life changed tremendously.

We saw our properties sold off for certain reasons I don’t know and was at this very moment that our lives changed.

My mother then decided to take me to live with my aunt in Chiyuni village in Chibombo rural so that I could experience a different kind of life and to learn how to take care of myself in future.

There, I experienced hard life. I used to sleep on the floor, learnt to walk miles to fetch water on my head from the well. I was only in grade seven then but I used to be on top in class.

As time went by, I became so playful due to peer pressure and as a result failed my grade nine examinations. When my mother upon seeing that I was becoming naughty and as well saw her death coming as she was becoming sicker and sicker, she took me to live with another aunt in Chililabombwe where I resumed school.

But again, the difficult of adjusting the teenage life in a small town of Chililabombwe and with parents almost dying, I resorted to having relationships with men who were much older than me, sugar daddies.

I continued being ‘naughty’ though for lack of a better term because I wanted to bring all my siblings together and provide for them. This was a moment that at the thought of me dating a young man was almost taken out of the picture even though I had young guys following me.

I thought that someone older was going to help me with school fees and help my brothers and all that but little did I know that I was also putting myself at a risk of HIV infection.

I fell pregnant for my first daughter, Joy, at the age of 18 and dropped out of school.

I was laughed at because people thought that I induced the divorce of the man who got me pregnant with his third wife.

People called me a marriage breaker at the age of 18 while I thought I was a mere victim of circumstances. I got the harsh response and was never seen innocent. Some of my uncles and aunties told me to go ahead and get married to the man who got me pregnant since he wanted to marry me so that it could be better for the children. We finally got married and I am still using my late husband’s surname instead of my current spouse’s.

EDUCATION AND CAREER

I attended primary schools at Nalituwe, Holy Cross schools in Livingstone, Chibombo primary and secondary schools.

Although I dropped out of school in grade 11, I completed a double master’s degrees in divinity and Non-Profit Administration at North Park University in Chicago after six years I emerged student of the year.

I am currently pursuing my PHD at the University of Zambia. I also have written a book to my name, ‘Warrior Princess’, and remarkable physical beauty.

MARRIAGE LIFE

Well, I got married to Mr. Zulu who was twice my age and after a year and a half, we had or second daughter Faith who is currently undergoing training in the US Army.

Our first daughter Joy, is set to get married this year and my aspiration is to be one of the best mother-in-law.

There was a break of some sort of stability within a short period of time and I began to experience some difficulties because the two of us were two worlds apart because it was a marriage of convenience.

I was looking for someone who could support me and my family not just my two children. We had eight dependents that were left by my mother so I took up the role being the head of the household whether we were together or not.

My husband Mr. Moffat Zulu died in 2003 and I got married to my American husband David Schoefernacker in 2008 and we have been blessed with a son, Kulangila David Schoefernacker who has brought so much joy to our lives. Kulangila is a Lenje word meaning ‘Hope’.

I told him about my condition and he told me he loved me for who I was and not for the status, he is HIV negative and so is our son.

WHEN AND HOW SHE DISCOVERED SHE HIV POSITIVE

My husband and I moved to Luanshya in 1997 and I had just come to commit to issues of faith in the Pentecostal churches and I fell in love to pray for people who I came to realize were dying of this disease which looked so familiar.

I was later given a book by a nurse Ms. Nkonomo who realized that I loved to talk to people with that disease and after reading it I realized that it was the disease that killed my parents.

At that time, no one knew about it and everyone thought it was witchcraft. And I read that the only way we could overcome it was to test. I wanted to test and unfortunately at that time one could not test without the permission from her husband and this was the beginning of my advocacy.

I noted that it was very wrong not to allow a woman test without the permission of her husband. I asked my husband Mr. Zulu and we went to test together with our children. My husband and I tested positive while our children tested negative.

HOW SHE FELT AFTER TESTING POSITIVE

I cannot tell you, I felt like a bright light break loose and I heard a voice like an audible voice saying, praise God! It is crazy but that was how I felt and I knew right there and then that I wanted to be a voice for the voiceless.

I can tell you that HIV is a bad disease that I do not wish for anybody but I can tell you that it became a blessing in disguise, so I would go to track drivers and companies to talk about the dangers of HIV. I wanted to warn people about it using myself as an example.

I wanted to talk about this with the people and use myself as an example to the people that needed hope. I wanted to talk to people whose husbands abandoned them after seeing the symptoms. It was very difficult that time and I would encourage them to get tested.

It was not easy though to help people because my husband was against the idea and he kept reporting me to church that I was disobeying him which was unconventional. I was told I was only going to live for six months and I really wanted to serve people within the same period.

I thought that if I had someone to give me school fees and give me all I needed, maybe I wouldn’t have become HIV positive, and so I started an organization called Fountain of Life Africa Today.

I started the organization and a lot of orphans came, my heart was broken. I helped the children in my town because I remembered how sad and lonely I felt when my parents died.

I started a community school for them because I have always believed that education and health care were connected. I believed that if these children were given chances of a good future, they needed education.

This small school has grown into a foundation today and it works to provide clean water, health care and basic education to the people of Zambia. I gave up my home for the orphans.

With the help of Dr. Manasseh Phiri (now late), I hosted a radio program called ‘positive living’ and in 2002, I spoke at the 14th annual international AIDS conference in Barcelona in Spain.

HOW HER JOURNEY AS AN HIV ACTIVIST HAS MADE HER FEEL TODAY

Life like a royal,  rubbing shoulders with some of the world’s most powerful leaders, including US former President George W. Bush in April 2003 to urge them to commit more funds and scientific resources to stopping the spread of AIDS.

At the White House event, president George Bush greeted me by kissing me on both cheeks, which made headlines in Zambia and the rest of Africa.

A month later, M Bush signed the Global AIDS Bill, a five-year plan that provides $3 billion annually to fight AIDS/HIV.

HOW AND WHEN SHE JOINED POLITICS

I got back to Zambia and built schools, clinics and helped many people in Chibombo district in so many ways as a way of giving back.

Upon seeing this, Chiefs in the area told me that they wanted me to be MP because I was doing things that MPs were doing.

My predecessor, General Ronnie Shikapwasha also told me on many occasions that he would have loved me to succeed him and he encouraged me a lot.

That is how in 2016, contesting for the seat was a difficult decision to make because my husband was in the US and I had five adopted children here in Zambia and I had an organization to run.

People encouraged me to run and I saw both the UPND and PF wanting me to run on their tickets, but I felt my values and my principles were closer to UPND and the people on the ground guided me to run on the UPND ticket.

I have since learnt many things even though I thought politics was a dirty game.

I have learnt that politics is meant for people with hearts for the people. For me, a title doesn’t matter what matters most is being a leader who serves and fights for the people.

FINAL WORD

I want to continue building schools, clinics and taking care of my adopted children so that they can become better people in society.

I want to be the best person I can and encourage young persons that would want to change their lives regardless of their backgrounds or status.

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