Lawmakers in Zambia on Friday elected a woman as parliament speaker for the first time since the country’s independence from British rule in 1964.
Nelly Mutti, a lawyer based in the capital Lusaka, won unopposed to replace Patrick Matibini, a retired high court judge who served as speaker for 10 years.
His tenure ended after last month’s general elections ushered in a new government in the Southern African country.
Mutti was sworn in along with her two deputies – Attractor Chisangano, a member of President Hakainde Hichilema’s United Party for National Development (UPND), and Moses Moyo, who was elected to parliament as an independent candidate.
In his address at the ceremony, Hichilema said Mutti’s election championed the cause of women in leadership roles in Zambia.
He vowed to let parliament operate independently and without any influence, urging legislators to give top priority to people’s welfare.
Hichilema will open the first session of Zambia’s unicameral parliament, known as the National Assembly, under Mutti’s leadership on Sept. 10, where he is expected to outline his vision for his government’s five-year term.
Zambia’s parliament may move ahead with plans for constitutional reforms in the coming years, with growing concerns over existing lacunae in procedural rules for important matters, including the country’s presidential elections.
There have also been calls for review of the Public Order Act, which successive governments have been accused of abusing to restrict the rights and freedoms of opposition figures.