Columnists Features

Let us avoid apathy

KONAYUMA

JUDITH KONAYUMA
ZAMBIANS from all walks of life looked forward to today with eagerness to cast their vote in favour of their candidates.
We have heard different messages from our political players and by now we have made up our minds who to give the precious vote to.
Like it is said, “Your vote is your right”. Every Zambian, of the stipulated age, that is 18 years, has the right to vote, under the Constitution.
No one can stop an eligible person from exercising their right to vote, as long as one can make their way to a polling station today.
In a democracy like ours, an election is an opportunity to say who we want to lead us. It is an opportunity that is availed to eligible Zambians after every five years. The vote is our voice, after all don’t we say “Yes” or “No” ?
We have been bombarded with political messages, left, right and centre. We have heard candidates speak on various fora to explain their intentions once they are voted into office.
We have seen party branded vehicles whizz past on the roads with full blast party slogans and songs wooing voters to their side.
They have gone round the country, reached the remotest parts of the country to ‘sell’ their party to the electorate.
They have used every opportunity, students’ lecture theatres, markets, bus stations and wherever hordes of voters are found in an effort to leave ‘no stone unturned’.
Today, therefore, marks the climax of all efforts by various political parties whose candidates appear on the Electoral Commission of Zambia ballot papers, the moment’s popular and highly prized document.
Let us remember that this year, the general election goes alongside the referendum, a once-in-a-while exercise that gives voters the power to accept or reject a constitution.
This year affords a voter a chance to be part of history by participating in the referendum. It may take years and years before a similar chance comes along.
While Parliament would have adopted the Constitution, the referendum is necessitated by the fact that the Bill of Rights under the Constitution is being changed.
The Bill of Rights in the amended Constitution contains clauses on women’s social, economic, political and cultural rights which are making their first entry into the amended document.
We are also voting, for the first time in the history of the country, under a Constitution that has a running mate clause. When a voter casts a vote in favour of their presidential candidates, that is also a vote for the running mate, who will ultimately be a vice-president.
All in all, we are voting for the first time under an amended Constitution which brings with it all the better benefits for citizens to make their life better.
For example, under the amended Constitution, Government is obliged to provide education for children of school-going age. It means that a departure from this obligation can be a basis to take Government to task.
By participating in this election, we are taking responsibility of our actions and giving power to the leaders we will choose to make decisions on our behalf.
Where our leaders fail to deliver, we have a right to take them to task if we voted them into office. We can go to them, sit down and talk to them about issues that affect us in our communities because we gave them the power to represent us.
Representative democracy, which we practise in Zambia, assumes a better level when a candidate is elected by the majority of voters.
Even if a candidate wins by a smaller margin, he will become a representative of the people. It means that leaders’ decisions will affect even those who did not vote for him. Staying away from an election as a way of protesting is suicidal.
We have come this far in our democracy and we are still building it. It depends on us to build this democracy and we can do this when we participate in the electoral process.
We would be making a mistake if we allow apathy to overtake us. Let us all go to vote.
The author is Sunday Mail Editor.






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