If you ask her, she will tell you that she is a mother, a wife, a businesswoman and a politician. She calls herself a humble person who tries to draw the best from every situation and enjoys her role as Malawi Congress PartyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s (MCP) Spokesperson. Nancy Tembo tells it all.
You were beaten up on July 20th during the demonstrations. What happened?
I was just walking along, taking part in the demonstration like all the others, when I came across a group of people that had stopped to catch their breath and get some rest. I decided to join them. Suddenly, we heard someone ask, Ã¢â‚¬ËœSi Undule uja uyu? [IsnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t this Undule Mwakasungula?]. Immediately after that, police officers descended upon the group and started beating us up. We were injured but Undule was the worst hit.
LetÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s go back to the start. Who is Nancy Tembo?
Nancy Tembo is a 50-something-year-old woman from Mangochi. She is humble, conservative in her approach to things, a Christian,Ã‚Â a married woman, a mother and just like any normal citizen of the country.
I grew up in Mangochi, but my parents were civil servants, so they moved quite a lot. I have lived in Thyolo, Liwonde and Nsanje. However, when I commenced my studies at St. MaryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Secondary School, I became more or less of a visitor in our home.
I am the first born in a family of eight children, seven girls and one boy who died in 1985. My father passed on two years ago. My parents both worked in the health sector. My father started off as a medical assistant and ended up as a clinical officer and my mother was an enrolled nurse.
What was growing up like for you?
We worked in the field before or after school, we did household chores and pretty much anything else that is otherwise done by maids. My parents were very strict. They wanted their children to work and so we worked very hard. I cherished the times we spent with my grandmother in the village. I loved to sit by the fire and listen to them tell us folk stories, something which does not happen. We would sometimes gather around and dance to the rise of the moonlight. When I see the moon now, I am drawn back to those days.
How many children do you have?
I have five children; three girls and two boys. Two of those are married.
Where did you do your education?
I have been to St. Augustine Primary School in Mangochi, Mphinji in Thyolo and St. Marys Secondary School in Zomba. Ã‚Â I was selected to Chancellor College. However, I did not complete my studies and immediately joined the Reserve Bank of Malawi where I worked as a secretary for two years.
After this, I went to the Polytechnic where I did secretarial studies, from there I joined Admarc and later rejoined the Reserve Bank as a personal assistant to the then governor, Hon. John Tembo.
After meeting my husband, who is TemboÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s nephew, I left the bank and joined Olivet where I worked as a manager. My husband and I later branched off into our own businesses. We own lodges, we are into textiles and run other business which I cannot mention.
Was politics always on the cards for you?
I come from Malindi in Mangochi which in 1963/64 was the hub of politics.Ã‚Â It is also where Masauko Chipembere came from. I remember my mother and aunt would go to the bush to give him food while in hiding.
I grew up in an area where politics was discussed both in social circles and within the confines of our home. So, I would say that politics was in my blood from an early age. In addition to this, I married a Tembo, someone linked to a well-known politician.
How did you become a politician?
In 2003, I was visited by people from Mchesi who wanted me to contest as a member of Parliament (MP) for the Lilongwe City South West Constituency. I laughed the whole thing off. My husband encouraged me to give it a go, so I went back to the people and agreed to their proposition.
I met some of the people I would be working with, but since I was never a good public speaker, I performed terribly. I had failed to deliver and reverted to my earlier decision not to contest. My committee members wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t hear of it though; they insisted that I become a politician. I, therefore, contested and was voted into office.
How did you overcome your fear of public speaking to win the seat?
There is a lot of wisdom among our people; something many choose not to see. When I got myself together, I tried as much as possible to work with my constituency members in extracting ideas from them. In return, they taught me how to behave and how to deliver convincing ideas.
We worked as a family and our relationship kept improving. I think thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what helped me improve my public speaking while delivering relevant information. I think I had a very good relationship with the people.
If the relationship was good, why then did you fall in 2009?
I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t how, I honestly donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know. I believe I did a very good job as an MP. I have come to realise that God allows certain things to happen in order for people to concentrate on other things.
Being an MP is a very involving job, there were times I was required to leave home early in the morning only to come late in the evening, during which time my husband had to eat food prepared by the domestic help. I am grateful that he supported me and never complained, but as a mother and a wife, I felt I should have been there.
I have since revived my businesses, some of which suffered due to my absence. I also pursued further studies and now hold a MasterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s in Leadership and Change Management from Malawi Institute of Management (MIM).
How did you meet your husband, Morgan?
It was kind of funny because my boss, J.Z.U Tembo, had asked me to organise a small party so that his nephew, Morgan, could meet girls and reintegrate himself into society. [He had been outside the country for a while].
As we were organising the party, Morgan fell in love with me. Since he had already found a partner, the party never took place. My husband is, however, not a politician.
How do you deal with political issues he is not in agreement with?
We debate about the issues. If we donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t agree, it stays that way; I have my view and my husband has his view. The good thing is that he doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get as emotional about politics as I do.Ã‚Â My mother is just like me, she loves politics so much that she reads the newspaper as if she were going to sit an examination!
How does it feel to work with John Tembo, a man who has been in politics almost all his life?
John Tembo has a lot of wisdom and knows so much about his country. I hope as a nation, we can learn from him one day. He is an oasis of wisdom for me and I enjoy working with him.
What are your hopes for the party?
I know that my party has gone through the fire; you know how when you boil something, it sure comes out refined and I think we have gone through the dirt and have come out of it. What we need now is to strategise better for 2014. We also need to mobilise resources as soon as possible, so we can take over government come 2014.
You are related to John Tembo who controls the party, are you able to see issues critically?
Yes, very much so. Our opinions differ at times, but I like to debate over such issues so that I can give in my input. Even though we are related, I can never tell him lies because I know a decision can be made out of that and this would be disastrous.
On bad political day, how do you make sure you compose yourself?
Phew!! On a bad day, am sure everybody here knows about it because I just keep talking until I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t talk anymore. I think that is how I get issues off my chest.
What are your personal strengths?
I am truthful, which I think helps progress my political career.
What is your take on politics?
I think politics has been made dirty by the people who do not want to learn from their mistakes. I think MCP was a very good government, but mistakes were made and that is why they were kicked out of government in 1994. The party that succeeded MCP should have been trying to correct such mistakes to avoid a repeat performance. The same applies to the current government. Due to these mistakes, there is a sense of dÃƒÂ©jÃƒÂ vu in many politicians, and that is why we keep retrogressing.
Do you think women are given a platform to express their views?
The electoral system is a biggest problem. A party goes for the candidate most likely to win, one who has the financial means and resources to win an election and that person is usually a man. Many women are not empowered, which is why they are not given a platform.
What is your hope, or what do you want to change?
I hope for a government that does things while thinking of the people at the grass roots-level. I want a government that listens to the needs of the people and works on them.
What do you do in your spare time?
I love baking cakes, especially wedding cakes. Furthermore, I have a garden and I also love to take care of my local chickens.