Meet the new EALA Speaker Margaret Zziwa Nantongo

The sight of magnificent houses on a hill top lets a new comer know it is not a residential area where just anyone resides.
Margeret Zziwa
Margeret Zziwa

The sight of magnificent houses on a hill top lets a new comer know it is not a residential area where just anyone resides.

To motorists downtown Kampala, Naguru, a Kampala suburb is a name that comes as a Police testing ground for those working to get a driving permit, while others know it for its serene environment.

Naguru, proudly ranked among Kampala’s seven wonder hills, is the residence of Margaret Zziwa Nantongo, a lady who beat the odds to become the first woman to hold the prestigious job of Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA).

As our motorcade approached her gate, two Policemen armed with their riffles come out inquisitively to who know we are. One of the journalists in this group wonders, “Eeeh! Police yemukuuma kati?” Luganda words literally translated to mean, “Is it the Police that guards her now?

From the protection around her and the respect commanded now, it is evident Zziwa, once a long serving educationist and banker isn’t the EALA legislator that many knew less than two months ago.

“You are welcome, please take seats here,” Zziwa welcomes us as she prepares to take a barrage of questions from different regional journalists.

Born forty nine years ago in a humble family of Mr. Charles and Josephine Mugerwa, Zziwa is described by many as laid back and down to earth person who won’t even hurt a fly.

Yet like the Nigerian saying goes, that the calmness of a river doesn’t mean it is free from crocodiles, Zziwa is a shrewd politician who always uses her political prowess to turn hard situations to favour her.

But to those who have dealt with her for long, her victory as EALA Speaker didn’t come as a surprise.  She is described as an assertive and confident lady who faces challenges as they come.

As she starts her new job, Zziwa promises to build a vibrant regional assembly and deepen the integration process by among other challenges dealing with trade barriers that still render the region business unfriendly.

On realizing The Sunday Times is represented at this press briefing, Zziwa quickly chips in, and narrates how impressed she was when she got a firsthand experience of the Bye-Bye Nyakatsi Programme, a campaign in Rwanda designed to eradicate thatched houses locally known as ‘Nyakatsi’.

“I visited Rwanda and saw for myself the Nyakatsi campaign and Umuganda exercise, I was very impressed. I recommend that other partner states emulate Rwanda on this if we are to achieve decent living for all,” she says.

Zziwa has a long experience and interest on habitat issues.

She once chaired the Committee of lands and urban development of Kampala City Council and the committee of housing and welfare; both committees where she dealt directly with houses for the City council and land planning in the city.

Zziwa, a mother of four children, is married to Uganda’s former Housing Minister Capt. Francis Babu.

“I would describe her as Mother hen because she always wants to care for everybody. But I keep telling her that it is not easy to care for everybody,” Babu reacts to a question from a journalist who had asked him to describe her wife in one word.

Zziwa’s political life dates way back to the early eighties, a time when she was still a student at Makerere University in the young days of the National Resistance Movement (NRM), Uganda’s ruling party.

A fervent promoter of women’s rights, Zziwa loves singing in church; reason she formed the St. Francis choir at Naguru St. Jude Church.

Her political calling saw her use her administrative position at the Kampala City Council to help empower her fellow women to assume leadership positions.

“For instance, the position of heading schools was always left to men in Kampala until I reversed the trend by letting women head schools…..otherwise they were always kept at the level of Deputy Headmistress,” Zziwa says.

The former Kampala Woman MP holds a Master’s degree in Policy (Applied Social Research) of the University of Stirling, UK and another MA in Gender and Women Studies of Makerere University.

She is also a holder of Bachelor of Arts Degree in Economics, a Post Graduate Diploma in Education, a diploma in legislative drafting and another diploma in trade and policy from TRAPCA-ESAMI.