Book Review by Emmanuel Mwamba
Biographies are usually about persons that are Presidents, Royalties or Rock Stars.
Yet this enchanting autobiography is of an ordinary young woman whose extra-ordinary circumstances thrust her to global limelight and stands as an equal to prominent personalities on the world stage.
A Heroine of global HIV/AIDS movement, the impact of Princess Kasune Zulu’s life is exemplified by the many stellar persons that have commented on or endorsed her book; from Hugh Evans, Director and cofounder of The Global Poverty Project to Dr. Manasseh Phiri, Zambia’s foremost and renowned HIV/AIDS activist. From Dr. Piot, former Executive Director of UNAIDS and now Director Institute for Global Health to Tim Costello World Vision Australia.
Although a few Zambians such as former President, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda and Sports personality, Kalushya Bwalya have achieved similar international limelight, Princess Kasune Zulu’s circumstances are that of a ordinary life faced with a disease that spelt imminent death, yet her personal and immense qualities of resilience to overcome, her defiant spirit and enduring hope in God, has brought her to this favoured place.
She is now a world-renowned HIV/AIDS advocate, educator and activist and now resident in Chicago, USA, and Kabulonga Lusaka. Her life was forever changed by the cold visit of the dreaded HIV/AIDS in her family. It might appear a familiar tale to many in Zambia and Africa but her account is told in a deeply personal and candid way.
PRINCESS KASUNE ZULU
Princess’ ordinary life in rural Zambia was forever changed by the impact of HIV/AIDS and its social consequences on families. She was an orphan struggling to survive, who became an HIV victim herself and rose above these depressing and sad circumstances to become a world renowned HIV/AIDS campaigner walking the corridors of global power.
Princess, a deeply devout Christian with a broad hopeful smile despite the ravages of her past life provides an example of unending endurance of the human spirit to overcome and bring forth solutions.
THE MAKING OF A WARRIOR
Born in1976, her father was Goodson Moffat Kasune, a Senior Zambia Railways Police Superintendent and her mother was Joyce Mwanamusule, a government employee. Princess’ early life was of modest privilege. The family was big as there were twenty four siblings from her father’s previous wives and his polygamous marriage.
Her early life was deeply influenced by her mother who taught values through traditional tales.
She cites one titled “Munge”. The gripping tale of a hyena masked as a handsome man, who marries the pride and beauty of the village. It’s a moral story teaching the young never to be influenced by superficial things and its foreboding consequences if done so.
Princess was influenced by her father who taught her the values of her Lenje traditions and culture. But like any middle class family, he also embraced modernity. His influence on her is apparent and the book mixes English and Lenje in a flawless manner.
Although this is an international book, with an international audience in mind, her reference to her parents remains in local language; her father is “Bataa”, and her mother is “Bamaa”, “Bama Banini for her father’s young wife and “Bakapa Banakashi” for her maternal grandmother.
And Maureen Nkandu, the TV personality and newsreader was a few among virtual personalities that influenced her. What television does!
But her life gradually turns to gloom when her father lost his job due to among other things, illness and the family moved to their village in Chibombo, Central Province of Zambia.
Her father tried to give her an opportunity to obtain similar education that she enjoyed while they were in Livingstone by sending her to Chilalabombwe on the Copperbelt.
Later she was to lose both her parents by 1997 to AIDS. Her siblings were scattered among the members of their extended family. It’s at this stage that the need to provide for herself and her siblings kicked in.
At 17 and Grade 11, she began to see older men. Her life reached her darkest moments when she fell pregnant by a 43 year old married man, Moffat Zulu. He later became her husband.
It’s also at this stage that her Christianity takes root and her circle of friend grows.
SERVING THE NEEDY
She accepted her reality. She had two children with Zulu.
When they moved to Luanshya town, Princess began visiting AIDS patients in hospitals and began to pray for them and provide food and other things that she could not even afford.
When the health of her husband began to fail, she decided to take an HIV test – in 1998! Regulations then forbade a married woman to take the test without the consent of her husband. She forced her husband to give her the consent. He actually joined to take the test.
Their two kids were negative while Princess and Moffat were found HIV positive.
It’s at this stage that she began community activities to deal with the pandemic.
She later opened a community school without any financial support from anyone.
She also began to secretly embark on, without the consent of her husband, HIV/AIDS awareness activities.
She began to preach to truckers! The strange tales of her dressing up as a prostitute (this is a married and Christian woman) shows the extent of her conviction to deal with this deadly enemy that took away her parents and was threatening her own family.
She also trekked or hitch-hiked to Ndola and Kitwe to speak to company workers.
U can guess what happened when the husband found out! Because the reports that were given to him were that of his wife drunk at bus stations, hitchhiking in men’s car and trucks and visiting strange places!
Dr. MANASSEH PHIRI
It’s during these secret sojourns that she met Zambia’s foremost HIV/AIDS campaigner and educator Dr. Manasseh Phiri.
Dr. Phiri opened her doors that saw Princess begin that famous program “Positive living” on Radio Icengelo and later on Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation TV.
For the next few years her work, her ministry and her HIV/AIDS campaign activities took off that allowed her to meet; USA President George Bush, Secretary of State, Colin Powell, Graca Machel Mandela, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Senator Hillary Clinton and later share the same platform with a presidential Hopeful, Barak Obama.
She also addressed the USA Senate committee on Health, Education and Pensions when the USA government grew the PEPFAR Fund from US$15billion to US$50billion.
The local tale of extreme poverty worsened by the prevalence of HIV/AIDS is given a face in this book and woven well with the help of Princess’ co-author Belinda Collins. Collins an Australian is a speaker, author and communication specialist who she refers to as her “sister”.
Collin helps with weaving science, statics and politics in Princess’ autobiographical account of the book.
This is unlike other books on AIDS. It is not a fact sheet, full of educational statics about the disease. Like her many international speaking engagements, it’s a tale told in a very personal manner to persuade, to learn of a life seeking solutions for millions.
Princess deals with her life in a candid manner and discusses easily many forbidden subjects that many would not be comfortable with.
Many remember that picture of President George Bush kissing an HIV African woman that was distributed worldwide.
This picture was taken when Princess was called to the White House when George Bush was to launch the US$15billion President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR), a program that has done so much for HIV/AIDS treatment and the “ABC” campaign. And it was Princess face that helped kick start that program.
This is book gives hope and inspires courage to the many that face and experience hopelessness, disease and imminent death. It also motivates and shows that the worst of social adversity can be overcome as demonstrated by her life. There are many books written by survivors of terminal diseases such as cancer. This book might fall into that category but is different in many ways.
It’s a book written well in a simple but compelling manner. It will likely do well locally and internationally.
Princess Kasune Zulu is now married to American David Schoefernacker who she met in 2005. They wedded in 2008.
Copies can be obtained at Book Cellar at Manda Hill and Planet Books at Arcades in Lusaka. There is an official launch of the book at InterContinental Hotel on 18th August 2010 being organized by Dr. Manasseh Phiri.
TITLE: WARRIOR PRINCESS- Fighting for Life with Courage and Hope
AUTHOR: Princess Kasune Zulu with Belinda Collins
PAGES; 278, 23 Chapters
PUBLISHER: Inter Varsity Press (IVP) BOOKS, ILLINOIS, USA
PRICE: K135, 000.00