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THE LAST BOW; Matildah Mwaba put to rest with tributes (OBITUARY)

Updated: Jan 21, 2021

BWALYA Katongo Moonga is a sports lecturer at the University of Zambia (UNZA) and mentors sportswomen in leadership.

She owes it to Matildah Mwaba (née Mwamba). Moonga is part of the National Organisation for Women in Sport, Physical Activity and Recreation (NOWSPAR), a leading sport-focused civil society organisation dedicated to the advancement of women’s rights to and through sport which Mwaba founded in 2006.

"Matilda Mwaba, I am grateful for believing in me, for trusting me, for mentoring me, for allowing me to shine and, most importantly, for teaching me that women can support other women without blowing anyone’s light out because when we are together, our light is brighter,” Moonga said on Wednesday.

“We can guide each other better and we are sure to go further. I didn’t think I would be writing these words about you, my executive director, at 01:45a.m on Tuesday the 12th January 2021, but I must, I need to let my world know that I have lost a woman that meant so much to me.

"Go well, you made a difference in my life and I am certain, many others will share my sentiments.”

Mwaba died at Levy Mwanawasa Hospital in Lusaka on Monday night (January 12th) and was buried on Thursday (January 14) at Memorial Park.

Moonga was among the many who have been paying tribute to Mwaba since her death, at the age of 62, which was confirmed by the family.

Moonga moderating a discussion for Athletes Commission in October, 2020. PICTURE BY: NOCZ Media

“I think I’m one such woman who has been built by Mwaba, whom I called Aunt Matti,” women national football team manager Besa Chibwe said.

It is common in an African set-up for tributes and recognitions to flow only after someone’s death.

But even in life, Mwaba was recognised for her contribution to sport. She was inducted into the African Union Sports Council Region 5’s Sports Hall of Fame alongside seven personalities from within the region.

Her last-born son Wallace said during a virtual funeral tribute service before her burial, where Moonga and Chibwe also spoke, that his mother found fulfilment in being inducted.

“At least, now I know that they are listening,” she is reported to have said.

Mwaba’s involvement in sport started with judo.

Born on June 8, 1957, Mwaba, whose initial education was in Kawambwa before moving to Lusaka, was a second Dan black belt-holder, having been trained in martial arts following a stint in the corporate world.

She initially served as chairperson of the Zambia Police Judo Club before joining Zambia Judo Association (ZJA) where she served as vice-president under Macher Bashir, who took over the presidency after Fr Jude McKenna resigned.

However, six months down the line, things started to crack and Mwaba was seen as the capable replacement.

In 1998, she was elected president, a position she held until 2005. In the same year that she was elected, a team was sent to Edinburgh, Scotland, where Zambia minted its first bronze medal through Hitra Shakanungu.

Under her reign, Zambia minted 57 gold, 18 silver and nine bronze medals at both local and international engagements.

Other than that, Mwaba was the first woman to be elected president of a national judo association.

She was also the first woman within the global martial art sports community to become president.

There is a reason why she was called Mama Judo. Wakung’uma Shapa, who succeeded Mwaba as ZJA president, has written a book on judo and has highlighted the achievements of her predecessor.

“How sad that she did not live long enough to appreciate what is embedded in her contribution,” Shapa says.

Mwaba, who also attended Stuttgart University in Germany, also served on the boards of the National Sports Council of (NSCZ) and National Olympic

Committee of Zambia (NOCZ).

Yet, that does not tell her story. The virtual memorial service did attempt. But it was not complete.

Like perhaps Mutabaruka said in his Dis Poem, Mwaba’s story is still being written.

“Yes, we are just three of her children but after this, I realised that mum had so many children in every one of you,” her daughter Matilda Mwaba-Lucas said at the burial.

Mwaba lived a selfless life which saw a number of young women and men alike benefit from the programmes that she implemented, especially under NOWSPAR.

Through her work, which was focused mainly on the participation of girls and women in sport, sport for development, organisational development and policy

engagement on the integrity of sport, she garnered a number of awards.

Her targets were women and girls in communities, sports associations, social and recreational clubs and schools.

She established NOWSPAR with a conviction that everyone should have equal access to information, education and healthy lifestyle choices.

NOWSPAR aims to encourage and promote engagement of women and girls in all areas, levels and abilities of physical activity, sport and recreation for fun and


The organisation is currently reaching 2,500 unique girls every year through sport and leadership programmes in schools where girls are introduced and engaged in sports activities such as football, netball and volleyball.

Mwaba had underlined the goal of NOWSPAR to enable women and girls to have access in all areas, levels and abilities in sport, physical activity, and recreation for fun and excellence.

Since its establishment, the organisation has received support from different funders to implement different projects that include Goal Project, which builds girls’ leadership in Zambia with the aim of empowering adolescent girls between the ages of 12 to 20 years through leadership skills building and financial literacy as one step in their process of economic empowerment.

"Mwaba lived a selfless life which saw a number of young women and men alike benefit from the programmes that she implemented, especially under NOWSPAR."

Mwaba also implemented a Youth Sports Exchange Programme (YSEP), which gives youths involved in sports from different parts of the world an opportunity to learn, exchange and develop positive attitudes, new skills and a deeper understanding of African and Norwegian cultures in a way formal

education is unable to do.

Sport for Tomorrow is another programme under the organisation. An initiative of the Japanese government, it promoted sports to more than 10 million people in 100 nations from 2014 to 2020.

In the course of her career, Mwaba has been at the front lines of advocating the

sport for development approach and gender equality in sport at different levels from national, regional and international forums.

She was awarded three times as sports administrator of the year during the NSCZ-organised and Rothmans-sponsored sports awards. She also received an award from the Ministry of Youth and Sport in recognition of her contributions to the advancement of girls and women in Zambia.

On behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), late President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe in 2014 presented her with an award in recognition of her achievements and contribution to sport in Zambia and the


A guest article by Zambia Daily Mail Newspaper's Elizabeth Chatuvela. The article was published by the newspaper on January 15, 2021.


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