Rose Chibambo honoured by Malawi president

A major road in Mzuzu has been named after Rose Chibambo, the first Female Malawian Deputy Minister after the country’s independence in 1964.

By Sam Banda Jnr

A new precedent was recently set in Malawi as a woman by the name of Rose Chibambo was honoured by President Bingu Wa Mutharika. 

Chibambo, who became the first female Malawian Deputy Minister after the country’s independence in 1964, was honoured by president Bingu Wa Mutharika who commissioned a road in her name.

The road is now known as Rose Chibambo Crescent, in the city centre of Mzuzu. The 300m road is reported to have been constructed by the government at a cost of 10.4 billion Malawi Kwacha. Mzuzu is Malawi’s third largest city after Blantyre and Lilongwe.

According to Malawi’s Daily Times, 77-year-old Chibambo was born in Kafukule in Malawi’s northern region district of Mzimba. She began mobilising Malawian women in 1952 into a political force. She was appointed Deputy Minister of Community and Social Development in 1963 after winning the Mzimba South parliamentary seat. Chibambo lived in exile after the country’s famous 1964 cabinet crisis under the rule of the first president, the late Hastings Kamuzu Banda. She was also held in detention. She stayed in exile for 30 years, until her return in 1993 with the advent of multi-party politics.

She is now settled in Mzuzu doing charity work, concentrating on HIV/Aids prevention. 

Mutharika said he thought of honouring the woman because she fought against colonialism, and she needed to be admired and remembered. 

He praised Chibambo as a leader and a progressive fighter for the development of women and the people. 

“I didn’t know her through books, but I know her personally. She deserves such an honour,” said Mutharika. 

He said he likes recognising a person through their deeds, and called on women to stand up and take action, saying that the 50-50 campaign for gender equality would not come on a silver platter but through hard work. 

Chibambo thanked Mutharika for the honour as well as for the role he was playing in promoting the welfare of women. 

She said she had received the honour with trembling hands and that she was happy with the gesture. 

She says, of her charity work now: “I don’t believe in putting children in orphanages. You alienate them from the protective environment of the family. Giving orphans some sense of hope is worth every energy and time”.

She continues: “People need education about the impact of HIV and AIDS. Behavioral change must be seriously addressed because closing down the dozens of ‘rest houses’ is not a solution.”

She also notes that alongside promiscuity, there are traditional practices including circumcision, polygamy, ear-piercing and tattooing, widow inheritance and forced marriages that she says need to be tackled. 

This is not the first time Mutharika has recognised women in Malawi. Other women Mutharika has honoured include Jane Ansah, who is the country’s Attorney General, and Matilda Katopola, who is Clerk of Parliament. 

Many African governments have been blamed for their lack of vision in not appointing women to top positions even if they have good qualifications. Men have continued to dominate. 

In South Africa, newly-elected president Jacob Zuma has set an example for other African governments by appointing 42 percent of women to cabinet positions.