During his enthronement at St Paul’s Cathedral, Namirembe in Kampala, on March 1, 2020, the Most Rev Dr Stephen Kaziimba Mugalu said, “I want to appreciate especially, Mama Margaret Kaziimba Naggayi who has been my constant and consistent intercessor and encourager … since we got married on January 7, 1984. All that I have been able to do is because of this quiet and prayerful woman.” Margaret stood beside him nodding slowly.
Henceforth, we are now used to watching televised church services celebrated by Archbishop Kaziimba, sometimes with his wife, Margaret, standing next to him.
Recently, I met her for a chat at their home in Namirembe, the official residence of the Archbishop during his term in office. We met at about 11am. She was with her youngest son, Joseph, a university student in his final year of Medicine at Mbarara University of Science and Technology. Joseph’s three older brothers are married.
As we sat down for our conversation, I asked Margaret whether the archbishop was home.
“No, he left during early morning for official duties,” she replied.
Margaret donned a navy blue gomesi with colourful print accompanied with closed black shoes. With her black signature short and neat hair, a bible in one hand, she informed me that she would be referring to the Holy book during our conversation. We started out with her childhood.
Born Margaret Naggayi Bulya in 1961, the last born of four grew up in Nakisunga Sub-county in Mukono District.
When Margaret was one-year-old, her mother left home after misunderstandings with her father.
“Life’s difficulties started,” she says. “I was eventually told that after my mother left, my feeding habits changed. My family began feeding me on any kind food that negatively impacted my growth and development,” she says.
At some point, Margaret even fell sick.
“My grandmother learnt of my illness, came home and took me to hospital for treatment. After recovery, I remained under her care,” she says.
Problems at home escalated over the following years when their father got involved with other women.
“These women influenced my father and he stopped sending money to my grandmother to cater to my school fees,” she says, adding that, “The same thing happened to my siblings.”
Margaret emphasises that her father had the money and was willing to spend it on his children but often, the women stood in his way. She missed out on a good education.
Forgiving her parents
On October 10, 1975, at the age of 14, Margaret became born-again.
“During trials and tribulations, I drew my strength from prayer ,” she recalls.
And it was this ‘new’ faith that helped Margaret to forgive her parents.
“In my childhood, I resented my father for failing to invest in my education. Likewise, I was livid towards my mother and blamed her for abandoning us,” she says.
She realised that bitterness was useless.
“I opted to forgive both of them [my parents] and I felt better about myself. The once heavy load became lighter,” she says.
Her parents have since passed on.
After committing her life to Christ, Margaret focused on doing Christian work and singing. Stephen Kaziimba took part in some of the group singing sessions held in different communities and churches.
“On the different occasions, we would see each other but did not talk much. We were not even friends,” she says, adding, “I often kept my distance from men.”
One day, after one of the singing sessions, Kaziimba mustered the courage and walked up to Margaret and expressed his interest in her.
“He said he liked me and wanted me to become his wife,” she recounts. “I responded that if it was God’s will for us to be together then, we would be a couple.”
But before they could get married, Kaziimba requested Margaret to let him complete building his mud and wattle house.
“I gave him two years to complete his project. I did not put him under any pressure to marry me. Meanwhile, I kept praying to God that if indeed this relationship was meant to be, it would be. I remember asking God that if Stephen was not Mr Right, then, at least he shows me a sign.”
After the two years, Kaziimba connected with Margaret informing her that he had failed to complete his house. Regardless, he still wanted them to be together.
“This was God’s sign that he was determined to be with me. In the end, I told him not to worry much about the house and we would build it together,” she recalls. The duo completed the house by themselves using bricks and mud.
They eventually got married on January 7, 1984. Margaret says they were poor, a reality which forced the couple to work extra hard in the following years. She would help with income-generating activities at home. This, she supplemented with Sunday school and choir activities at church.
Her husband was a teacher at church, who would lead prayers when the lay reader was absent. He would also help out with the day-to-day operations of this church
“I believe in couples working jointly for their future. If a man loves you but has nothing (yet) to his name, go with that one and build a life together,” she says, adding, “The idea of girls nowadays wanting to settle down with already established men does not work. Some of such men won’t respect you while others take you for granted. They think you only love them because of their possessions.”
Margaret is a mother of four boys born in 1985, 1987, 1991 and 1994 respectively. But before the boys came along, she lost a daughter in 1984.
“She would have been our first born. Sadly, she died three minutes after birth due to health complications,” Margaret says while staring briefly into space.
The couple had hoped for another girl but fate had it different.
“I ended up having only boys and made peace with it,” she says.
Margaret loves her sons to bits.
“I am fond of my boys. I started praying for each one from the time of conception to date,” she says.
She agrees that most times, the clergy are absent to do their parental roles because of commitments such as pastoral visits. This leaves a vacuum for follow up, and mentorship.
In such a case, she advises parents to release children to trusted elders who can play a parental role.
In her journey, the most trying times came when the boys hit adolescence.
“This is the stage where children think they know it all and want to experiment. But I always cautioned my sons and echoed the eventual consequences of some of their actions. For instance, she would openly tell the boys the consequences of impregnating a girl. “Such an act would affect our ministry,” she says.
She rebuked and caned them whenever need arose, following the biblical approach in Ephesians 6:1-4, “mubalerenga mu kukangavvulanga ne mu kubuuliriranga kwa Mukama waffe and Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it”
And for such reasons, Margaret emphasised mostly gratitude, humility, forgiveness and respect for others.
She also frequently encouraged them to focus on completing school and today, she prides in the fact that her sons are men of substance.
As archbishop’s wife
Margaret’s status changed after her husband was enthroned as the ninth archbishop of the Church of Uganda in March. Her husband’s new position came with a set of new responsibilities for her such as often accompanying him on visits or simply being by his side during his official duties. Recently though, she has been forced to stay home because of the coronavirus pandemic.
These times have been challenging for the family too.
“I feel for my husband. Churches are still closed and people are asking him for the next step. They want solutions. The pressure is much and I feel it too,” she explains.
Margaret is, however, optimistic that things will get better. At the moment, Margaret often calls people to counsel and encourage them in this crisis. In the previous years, the 59-year-old says she spent part of her time growing foodstuffs such as bananas and potatoes.
On her sense of style and fashion
People continuously urge Margaret to adapt to a new style especially with her new status.
“People tell me to change my dress code, plait my hair and wear make-up,” she says.
But Margaret stresses she will not change who she is.
“When God elevates your status in society, you don’t necessarily have to change who you are. If you were humble, remain that person. If you were a woman like myself who loves the simple things in life, stick to that,” she says, adding, “Sometimes when you change, you anger God and he strips you of that blessing. He has lifted me from a nobody to somebody even with my simplicity. Why should I change now? Is it just because I have a new position in society?”
The other reason she opts for simplicity is because of the different verses in the bible that encourage women in 1 Peter 3: 3, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewellery or fine clothes.”
Regarding what her husband thinks about Margaret’s style, in one of the televised services the archbishop said he saves a lot of what would be spent on her.
“He understands that this is who I am and he has accepted it,” she says.
To her fashion critics, Margaret says they should learn to accept her the way she is. “I won’t revamp my style. This is who I am,” she concludes.