The just ended elections in our homeland point to highly worrisome developments with far reaching consequences. Zambia will never be the same after these elections.
The first worrisome development is the increasing level of state sponsored violence and arbitrary actions. This narrowed down the democratic space for opposition political parties and their supporters long before the official campaign period was announced.
The PF government had gone on rampage and did everything possible to ensure that the voices of the opposition political parties were silenced. There were no “holy cows” during this pillage of the country’s moral consciousness.
Law enforcement agencies, intelligence services, national defense wings, the civil service, sections of the church and traditional authorities were all co-opted in legitimizing or at least tolerating massive acts of violence by the PF government.
People were killed, mutilated, women raped and verbal abuse was everywhere during this process. The scale and impunity of this violence was historical. The fact that the perpetrators of this violence ended up winning provides a huge incentive for more, systematic state sponsored violence from now on. The vote for the PF government therefore legitimizes an immoral political behavior that will continue to haunt us for years to come.
The second negative development has to do with the fact that the contest was not decided on the merit of candidates and their visions for our homeland. The critical issues such as macroeconomic stability, securing uninterrupted power supply, hunger and food sovereignty, job creation, gender inequity, poor education and health services, pervasive injustice and violence did not play a role in shaping the voting decisions. Most Zambians had made up their minds who to vote for long before the campaign period started. It did not take rocket science to know that Southern, Western, North Western provinces would primarily vote for HH and the UPND whereas Eastern, Muchinga, Northern, Luapula and Copperbelt would go for Edgar Lungu and the PF. The questions was just “by how much margin?” This regional block-voting pattern makes a mockery of our Zambian democracy. Issue-based politics has no space in this type of voting.
In a way, regional block voting is very convenient for the country’s petty bourgeois political elite. It subtly masks the class, exploitative and oppressive nature of the ruling class. Ethnicity and regionalism gives this ruling class an identity and a link to the toiling masses. For the Zambian masses, ethnicity and regionalism as applied to electoral politics will continue to serve as a yoke that enslaves them in perpetuity.
The third issue is institutionalized vote buying. For an impoverished country like ours, the amounts spent on buying voters with cash, chitenge materials, T-shirts, alcohol, soap, salt, maize meal, and all sorts of items are perplexing. Even in areas where politicians are assured of block voting in their favour, what is now termed as “vote consolidation” is still rampant. Our political elite has over the years commercialized the voting process. In so doing, a good proportion of the voters have also been corrupted. People attend campaign meetings to eat food, drink, merry and receive gratifications from the politicians. There are many areas of this country today where an election campaign meeting is impossible without significant cash and material items exchanging hands. We find ourselves in a sick, fake and unstable democracy.
Last but not least, the entire electoral process has been discredited. The circus surrounding the constitutional electoral clauses, the filling in of nominations, misplaced conflict resolution attempts, the vote counting and aggregation, the attempted hacking into the IT system at Mulungushi Conference Centre, as well as the confusion with the announcement of results have all combined to leave permanent scars on our conscience. Like with many aspects of our Zambian lives, we thrive on confusion, mediocrity and lawlessness. It is a painful and bitter reality.