VENTURES AFRICA -Females, in the animal kingdom, are more lethal than their male counterparts. This is also the case with species of spiders and other insects, and everyone knows that few things are more dangerous than a mama bear whose cubs have been threatened. In a pride of lions, the lionesses have the specialised task of hunting and are more aggressive than the males. In the human race however, it is commonly accepted that aggression, fighting and the role of securing life and property lie solely with the man. Perhaps except where her children are concerned, women are expected to be protected while men are the protectors. Zambia, under President Sata, has turned the tables in security by appointing several women as Commissioners of Police for various provinces. One such woman is Brenda Muntemba, Commissioner of Police, Southern Province. In a traditionally male-dominated field, Muntemba loves her role as commissioner and leverages on it to improve conditions for her people.
Muntemba was born in Kitwe, Zambia on July 2, 1970 to parents Bradley Muntemba and Hilary Kalenga, both active members of their community. Her father, Bradley, was also a police officer, serving as the Commanding Officer for the Central Province. Her mother served as commissioner on the Mwanakatwe and Mung’omba Constitutional Review commissions. Brenda is the second of three girls. The nature of her father’s job meant that the family moved often from town to town and Brenda recalls attending several different schools. She completed her secondary education at Roma Girls Secondary School in Lusaka from 1983 to 1987 and then went to University of Zambia (UNZA) where she studied French and Economics from 1988 to 1992. After her degree, Brenda worked as a secondary school teacher for a few years and concurrently taught French at Alliance Francaise. She later obtained a Masters Degree in French and English and qualified as an interpreter during a two-year stay in France sponsored by the French Embassy. It was her father’s work with the police force that provided the motivation Brenda needed to join the force at age 26, a year after his death.
She joined a team of 63 graduates in the police academy and began her career as the Assistant Superintendent. Looking back on the period of training, she remembers the tough schedule that did not discriminate based on gender. The 3am wake up calls and intensive physical training helped build teamwork among both male and female officers. Muntemba does not remember gender-based discrimination as much as she remembers embarassing moments. On one trip, she had to allow a male colleague hold up her uniform trousers while she fastened her equipment belt after using a pit latrine! She said of the experience: “You’ve got to get used to the environment, and instead of standing alone you have got to learn to fit in.” Beyond fitting in, she had to learn to laugh about those instances, “there’s a lot of humour – you make fun of it,” she laughs.
After training, Brenda did a year of orientation where she rotated through all the sections of the police service. She found the Criminal Investigation Department to be one of her favourite postings and for a while she considered pursuing that line of work. But as she puts it, “I have a small weakness…I like my uniform!” Eventually, the love of her uniform won and she chose it over the plain-clothes option. She was made Officer-in-Charge at Riverside Police Station in her hometown of Kitwe, an achievement her father would have been proud of. Following her appointment and sponsored stay in France, Muntemba held other significant positions including that of Police Spokesperson, Instructor at the Police Training College and Chief Superintendent or Director, Heritage and Corporate Image, one of only a handful of women to hold such positions. She has thus been in the public eye for good portion of her career.
In 2011, a very deserving Muntemba was sworn in as Police Commissioner of Zambia’s Southern Province by President Michael Chilufya Sata. Muntemba recognises the level of responsibility of her role, particularly in providing security to the tourism capital of Zambia, Livingstone. “Livingstone has many lodges and hotels which accommodate tourists and other guests especially those from outside the country. As police, it is our job to ensure the safety of tourists and other guests. We also have to guard against poaching since Livingstone has a National Park (Mosi-oa-tunya National Park),” she said. She is thankful to President Sata for elevating her to this important position and is committed to ensuring the security of Zambia’s Southern Province for both nationals and foreigners. Like lionnesses, Muntemba ensures the security of her country along with other female commissioners including Joyce Kasosa as Commissioner for Luapula Province, Grace Chipalila Mwansa as Eastern Province Commissioner, Charity Masambo Katanga as Lusaka Province Commissioner, Mary Chikwanda as Commissioner for Northern Province and Mary Tembo as Commissioner for Copperbelt Province.
Brenda Chipowe Muntemba is more than an officer, she is a wife to Reverend Sichilembe and mother to their daughter, Lukundo Miriam Nachilembe. Her work ethic reflects her spirituality, “In whatever I do, it should ultimately bring glory to God,” she says. She chooses to be obedient to the law, living her life on earth as one whose days are numbered. She uses her public position to advocate for better care and opportunities for Zambian women and children through her work with UNICEF and she is also an author and artiste. Her first book “Off Duty”, is a collection of poetry written to draw readers away from the experience of daily life to a place of dreams. Muntemba is a big believer in dreaming and has worked hard through the years to keep her ability to dream alive. Sometimes she takes a long drive, windows down, wind blowing through her hair, just to make sure that the difficulties of police work don’t stop her from dreaming, achieving her goals and leaving behind a legacy worth remembering. She leaves us with some inspiring words from her first book:
“One day the final book shall be opened before each one of us, as the author of his own unique piece. How beautiful it shall be should the end be as exuberant as the beginning, and each page as hopeful as when we first put pen to paper.”