By Masuzyo Chakwe and pictures by Salim Dawood
Sun 15 Apr. 2012, 08:00 CAT
ALTHOUGH 50-year-old Mazuba Bernadine Monze studied to be an economist, her heart and passion has always been in cookery and hospitality. Monze can reproduce anything in sugar. She is Zambia's only qualified sugar crafter.
"I am into bakery, cake decorating and sugar craft, meaning I can reproduce anything in a room in sugar, even a basket weave, I can recreate it. A whole flower arrangement in sugar, I can make it," she says.
She was born Mazuba Bernadine Monze but is known to many as Zu, hence the name of her company Zu Monze.
"Our logo is the art of reception, meaning that anything we need to do with an event, our company can handle it," she says.
She was born in May 4, 1961 at the University Teaching Hospital to Basil Mweene Monze and former minister in the Kaunda administration, former diplomat and politician Lily Walumweya Monze.
She says turning 50 last year was a milestone looking at the lifespan in Zambia.
Monze says as a Catholic, she decided to thank God for the 50 years of her life by having a ceremony at church and a party thereafter.
"My father is a former general manger of Zambia Railways, UBZ and a former permanent secretary of the ministry of power, transport and communications. And also abroad, my father worked for the OAU (Organisation of African Unity, now the African Union). So we did live abroad for the early part of my childhood," she says.
"We are five in total, I am the eldest and there is Dr Mweene Monze working for IBM South Africa; then we have Dr Mwaka Monze, who is head of virology and immunology at UTH; and then we have the guru of marketing Kay Monze; then there is Chiko."
Monze did most of her primary education at the Dominican Convent of Lusaka in Woodlands.
"We lived in Ethiopia. I studied at the American Community School in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia then came back to Zambia and completed my Form III which I excelled at and obtained a division one certificate, went on to Form V where I obtained a division one certificate as well. And then I went to UNZA where I attained my degree in economics with a minor in business," she says.
She says her studies did not end there as she went further to do the things that she loved - cake decoration.
"I went into cake decorating. I am Zambia's only qualified sugar crafter at the moment. I am a sugar artist. I excelled in that and I was trained under the best of the best. These are world class judges, they judge at international food fairs and they are authors, so they are very high in sugar artery or cake making," she says.
"I haven't really worked (as an economist), maybe I did a bit of temping (working on temporary basis) but funny enough my temping was always tailored to the same industry. I worked for Intercontinental, I worked for Pamodzi. I was Pamodzi's first holiday student because I had always loved the world of hospitality; how to take care of people, how to feed people, how to make people happy in an environment. That has always been in the back of my life, in my background."
Monze got married on November 12, 1983 to Christopher Bwalya Lombe, now deceased.
"We had two children, they are residing in the UK. Bwalya Christopher Lombe, first born and Lily Chipo Lombe, she is a lawyer and working in the UK. I have a granddaughter Kamira, she's in the UK with her parents," she says.
Monze says growing up as a child of a politician has greatly influenced her.
"I come from a very strong political background. In fact, I do intend to go into the political world because my life would not be complete if I didn't give back to this nation what it gave to me. My parents were very inspirational and what I have become today and you will see it in various parts of my life, I now serve as the first vice-president of Business and Professional Women Zambia and amongst other things, I have done a lot and I am trying to do a lot for my country," she says.
"I am also a patron for an orphanage in Chelston and these are things I feel we must engage ourselves in as part of community social responsibility. We need to look after our people and if we are in a better position, who else is better to help the needy in society? My mother is a very strong woman and I don't know, I may not speak for myself but people say that I get my strength of character from that. And my daughter Lily has a very strong character. We probably take it from there."
She says in whatever arena of politics, she is willing and ready to serve Zambia.
Monze is patriotic about Zambia and says this led to her returning from the UK.
She says her parents saw her talent when she was in university. She explains that while other people would go to offices to work, she would go into offices three days in a week to take orders.
"That started Zu Monze and that started my cake business because my parents saw that this child loved this world of cooking and creativity. Then I was sent to the UK by my mother. She sacrificed a lot and I excelled in my studies in this field and the reason why I went into this field, my dream was to come back to Zambia and open a one-stop shop for weddings and you can find everything from us because we are linked with other companies. I am an executive chef, I am a baker, pastry; I am a flower arranger and I am a sugar crafter, so three-quarters of your wedding is done," she says.
She says her company started as a little outlet at Simoson called Lily and Bobos in 1984 dealing in cakes and sweets.
She says she has started a school to mentor and teach young people in the art.
"I already have some who work under me especially when we are doing events and everything, but there are some who are permanently stationed as bakers, so they are learning the world of the art; of sugar craft. There are those who are with me as florists, so they are also gaining a lot," she says.
"But I would like to do it at a larger scale so that more people can gain from this. So I have started working on a school of floristry and sugar craft. There has been a lot of interest actually."
In floristry, Monze has been the reigning champion of the Lusaka Garden Club.
Monze says in the UK, with little training and huge competition, she managed to get third prize in the National Essex Flower show.
"My theme was very ethnic because I was very homesick. So everything I did was related and had something to do with Africa or Zambia because I missed Zambia very much," she says.
She says with her mother being a diplomat, she had an opportunity to travel a lot and even met the late Pope John Paul II, when her mother was serving as Zambia's ambassador to France.
"I have been exposed to the world of politics, foreign politics and just different cultures and lifestyles. And I have done things that are amazing. It is a God-given opportunity. Very few Zambians would have that blessing; I have travelled to Zambia on a private jet, all the way from Paris to Lusaka. I travelled with a French businessman and his family," he says.
Monze says she is happy that Zambians are realising her gifting.
"And whatever job we do, we try to excel, to even do better with each job. We don't want that tendency that most people have, after they do some work and they make a bit of money they start becoming comfortable. For us at Zu Monze, that is not the way. We want to even grow to greater heights.... We have recently joined up with a South African partner and we are working with the valiant innovative creations, so in line with this, we look at concept development," she says.
She says she deals in the finer details of an event: the floral arrangements, the décor, the catering for weddings, corporate function and in funerals.
Monze says people always seem to forget that a funeral is also an event and should be well and "tastefully done".
"And if anything, we pay too much attention to birth but we forget about death. Death is also a very important part of human existence, so even that has to be looked at, with finesse. So that's what Zu Monze really does, the finer details of the business and now with this other combination and grouping, we now look at an event from the angle that people haven't thought about," she says.
She says people are still coming to appreciate placing value on her kind of work.
"Decorating cakes, they don't seem to understand, to place a value on the product, the end product. They have no idea about the time it takes, the energy levels that are used, you know, in doing all this work. But I suppose with time maybe they will begin to understand and appreciate because the value of doing this abroad, in a developed nation, they really, really place a major value on it. It's not profitable to that level in Zambia, not yet. No, I am not saying that there is no value at all, there could be more value," she says.
Monze says she would not put a price on her products because her company has different packages to fit a person's pocket.
"So if you feel that this item will make these packages too high for you, you can remove it and we will advise you if it will have any effect or not," she says.
She is happy with the Patriotic Front government for recognising women.
"You will see that more women are holding positions of higher office. I think we are recognising the power of the woman. It's a very positive move I am seeing in the country at the moment," she says.
She says the world is far better off with stronger women. "The woman is a very strong member of the human race and without her, a lot will not be achieved .... Maybe we haven't even realised and tapped into the level of our strength, the ability, you don't even have to go into high positions. Who runs this economy, who is sustaining it? It's women."
"I am proud to be an African and I am proud to be a Zambian."