DORA Siliya says she has a “great family” and is a person with a positive disposition.
Siliya, who is Petauke Central PF member of parliament and information minister, says she does not get low moments but instead wakes up every day believing that “it’s a good day.”
Siliya, 49, visited The Mast newspaper head office in Lusaka’s Ibex Hill area recently.
Asked how it is to be a minister in government, with all the scorn thrown at her, Siliya, who was first elected as a member of parliament on the MMD ticket in September 2006, explains that she does not take lightly a ministerial appointment.
“Look, when I started out in 2001 the first time [I wanted to become a member of parliament], all I thought was that I want to represent the people of Petauke. Being appointed a minister is a privilege that I don’t take lightly at all,” she says, with her usual poise.
“I was first appointed a deputy minister in the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry by President [Levy] Mwanawasa [in October 2006]. Thereafter I was appointed as a Minister of Communications and Transport, then Minister of Education, Minister of Energy, Minister of Agriculture, and now Minister of Information and Broadcasting. I take every appointment with the seriousness it deserves.”
The journalist-turned vivacious politician notes that in every Cabinet she has worked and with every President, it is for her to just “thank God for the confidence that the Presidents have shown in me.”
She remembers that when President Edgar Lungu appointed her as a Minister of Agriculture in September 2016, starting the e-voucher data base was such a massive project.
“I just believe [that] in every ministry there is such an opportunity for me. There are always challenges but you have to say ‘what can be done and what can we not do.’ When you leave you hope that you did the best and others continue after you,” Siliya says.
“[About] things thrown at you; if they are not throwing things at you, then clearly you are not doing something right. They must be throwing things at you! (Laughs) Whatever happens in life, it’s better to be talked about than not to be talked about.”
She adds that she is focused.
“I have a great family! Sometimes I never even know that there are people out there talking; I’m a very focused person. If you are not focused, then you are going to allow everybody to push you left, right,” she shares.
“I went to a funeral of that very sad incident of the child that died at the University of Zambia (Vespers Shimunzhila); when I came out and the young people were insulting and so on, I actually just felt sorry for them. My life continues! I’m a minister, I’m an MP, I live well and my life continues.”
She stresses the sadness she felt when she was insulted by UNZA students.
“It is shocking that people can be in a society where even at a funeral we cannot have the grace to be decent! That is a reflection of our country that something needs to change,” the minister says.
On her lowest emotional point, while serving in government, Siliya responds: “I don’t think I get low moments.”
“I am such a positive person. That will be my advice to young people; don’t let life make you feel small. Wake up every day and say ‘God, it’s a good day!’ I wake up every day and say it’s a good day,” she indicates.
“I don’t get stuck in a moment – you must have the character and capacity to move on. For me, that’s a true test for being a human being, for being a politician and much more for being a democrat at heart that you must be able to accept different opinions.”
On whether or not she will seek a fourth term in 2021 as a member of parliament, Siliya, tongue-in-cheek, answers that “you don’t ask politicians such questions.”
She explains that in every election, she goes to the people of Petauke to ask them if they still want her to continue as their representative in Parliament.
“If they say yes, I think about it. They haven’t told me “no” yet. So, to me we’ll get there when we do. What is important is for me to use my space and place at this point in time to do the best I can,” Siliya notes.
“Petauke has always been an issue extremely close to my heart; I’ve got such a relationship with the people there and some of the people there have become some of my best friends.”
Meanwhile, Siliya concludes with a response on the rate of the PF government, insofar as performance.
She says she believes that every government tries to do the best it can.
“[But] what a government can do in five years…. It can’t do everything but every government does the best it can. Under PF we’ve seen such an accelerated infrastructural development. I know that there are still people out there who don’t appreciate this,” says Siliya.
“But I can say it from the bottom of my heart that foreigners [like] Kenyans, Malawians come to Zambia and they get shocked and go like ‘wow! What a country!’ It’s because it’s just developing in front of your eyes. Zambia was not like this 10 years ago, it was not like this 20 years ago, it was not like this five years ago.”