Just a few weeks before the Batumi Chess Olympiad 2018, the elections for the position of leadership of the Malawi Chess Federation held and produced a powerful woman to lead the federation in the process. Here is our interview with Mrs Susan Namangale. Do enjoy and do not forget to ask your questions at the end of the interview (we will be sure to get them across to her and the response back to you).
Hello Ma’am, can we get to know you?
I was born Susan Musa Kakota, but my family name is now Susan Namangale, as I am married. Born in a family of eight (8), of which 7 were girls and I am the 6th of the lot. I am married with three boys who also play Chess. I hold an MBA from Indira Ghandi University and Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science from the University of Malawi. I work as an Environmental and Social Specialist in projects and currently on a short term Contract with the World Bank Group.
How did you meet chess?
The only sport I have passionately been involved in as I was growing up, was Chess. I started learning and playing chess during holidays when I was in primary school, as my elder sisters Gladys and Tasokwa, who were at Girls Secondary Schools at the time, brought home a chess board and talked a lot about the game of Chess. I was going to a primary school at the village and none of my friends knew chess, and I had to wait for my sisters to close school so we can play Chess. And when I was selected to Providence Girls Secondary School, I found an inactive chess club with few chess players.
Our Chess patron encouraged us and I played with him a lot until I mastered the game and started checkmating my teacher. He was a Mathematics teacher too and my mathematical solving skills improved greatly as a result.
I remember sacrificing my little pocket money (sent by my sister from her bursary fund) to buy a Chess board so as to increase the number of chess players at my school. I ended up developing much interest in the game than my two sisters who introduced it to me. And this passion lives on to today.
What was your motivation to sponsor and want to get involved in chess management?
I have always wanted to see Chess improving in Malawi. I have always wanted to see a lot of ladies playing chess. I always wanted to see chess being played in many schools in Malawi, and this motivated me such that whenever I could manage to, I would put aside some resources for Chess in whatever little way. When Kezzie announced that he would be retiring as president of the federation, I knew there would be a gap and did not want to see all the effort move into the drain, therefore I decided to take up the Management role and move forward to lead Chess Association of Malawi.
What is your view about chess politics?
I did not think Chess Politics is this complex until this year when I was part of it. I think Chess Politics is tough and it needs strong minds to survive it, which is evident in my push for the leadership role in Malawi, and those who have been elected into various positions of leadership this year, including the new FIDE president.
Malawi has produced the first female federation president in the whole of Africa, what made you run for the position?
As I have stated above, it is my passion for the game of Chess that motivated me to take up this position. I just had to do it for the love of the game and to ensure Chess in Malawi progresses. I am proud to be the first female Chess President in Malawi and currently the only female federation president in Africa. I owe it to the Malawi team that believed in my capabilities irrespective of gender.
You were at the Batumi Chess Olympiad this year. Was it your first? How would you rate it?
Yes, it was my first and I thought it was not that bad from what I have heard about previous ones. It was my first time to be at this part of Europe and there was much to see and learn from the host country. I met all the wonderful Chess friends that I needed to meet and that was enough to instill positivity in me, besides I am a chess player and I like positive thoughts.
Africa won 2 category Gold Medals at the Olympiad (Sudan in Group E and Egypt in Group B). what do you think Africa needs to do to ensure that we challenge for the top spot at the next Olympiad?
This was a milestone for Africa and a motivation that Africa is capable of getting to the top. African countries should work together to develop Chess in Africa. The leaders should be selfless and move forward agendas and strategies that will develop chess in the Africa, in doing this, Africa would move forward.
The mantle of leadership was passed down to you from a vastly experienced and joyful man in Mr Kezzie, how important was he in your winning the elections in Malawi?
Well, I would say I supported Kezzie a lot in his role as former president, to move Chess forward and his support for me was obvious, as it was in his interest to leave Chess in good hands otherwise, his efforts would have been in vain. Kezzie played an important role to make Chess what it is now in Malawi and I am taking it from where he left.
Can you highlight for us the plans you have for chess in Malawi?
The key thing is that my plans for Chess in Malawi are BIG. I plan to make Chess a very popular sport in Malawi and ensure Chess is played in all schools in Malawi, so as to tap into the grassroots potential. I plan to increase visibility for the Chess Institution in Malawi and gain Corporate trust and support. I plan for sustainable programs by the institution to be able to develop the game of Chess. I plan to be consultative and tap into the player/administrator ideas to develop the game of Chess in Malawi.
Malawi plays host to the Africa U-16 Team Chess Championship in December. What are the plans being put in place to ensure that the kids from various countries coming to Malawi would have an awesome time?
We were on track with planning for this tournament, until we received a letter from ACC to cancel the Tournament. It was unfortunate; however, we had no choice as a tournament of this magnitude required significant resources and we were not prepared to host without the backing of the confederation.
Would Malawi be planning to bid for any other continental event in the coming years?
Yes, we are considering a bid for one of the African Junior Tournaments in 2019, which we are yet to make a decision on the specifics. But 2021 will also be a big year for us to hopefully put together an African Open tournament.
As regards Africa chess and sponsorship, what do you think we need to do to get sponsors within Africa to support our events?
We need to engage more with the Corporate World for them to understand that Chess is not just a game but also a tool for Education, development and a life changing skill. We need to build trust so that we can be supported. We need to increase visibility for Chess in Africa and ensure our events are more publicized.
What is your view on the importance of media in chess?
The media is key to increase the visibility that I am talking about. Without the media, no one would know Chess exists. The media is a medium between the Corporate World and the Chess industry. They are key to ensuring the existence of a relationship between the corporate World and Chess. I have a lot of respect for the Media, as they will help me progress my agenda and move Chess to where it should be.
A word for the young person out there reading and getting inspired by this interview?
Chess is a great mind game. It makes you think and analyze alternate solutions, it makes you push on in the midst of challenges, it makes you believe in yourself and raise your self esteem, it makes you push for results and not get satisfied with status quo. Chess makes one avoid the crowd and think independently. Young people around the world should consider playing Chess, which would help become responsible citizens and brilliant at what you do in the community in the future. Parents should encourage and provide resources for young people to engage in Chess games, because it will surely make a difference in their life.
‘Chess like Music and Love has the power to make people happy” Siegbert Tarrasch said
And there you have it folks, directly from the writing of the only female federation president in Africa. What say you?