E. Munshya, LLB (Hons), M.Div.
The time is finally here. In a few days, Zambia goes to the polls. What a milestone. Mature nations and great democracies use the ballot as the only legitimate way to change or not-change a government. For this we must commend ourselves and thank God Almighty for having given us the grace and the opportunity to partake in the sacrament of our democracy. I call Zambian democracy a sacrament because it is a system we have chosen for ourselves. It is also a political system we believe God has ordained for us. As such, we come to the table of democracy with gratitude and hope, knowing that it will help us to choose a leader to take our great nation into its future. As Zambians we must take democracy seriously. We must guard it with our very lives. We must do all we can to sustain it and to make it flourish. There is no one who can make our democracy better and greater apart from ourselves. Democracy does not flourish just because of good laws, or good structures. Democracy flourishes due to the diligence of the people concerned. It is the people who are the genuine vanguards of any democracy. In fact, it is the vigilance of our people that will brook the verve of our democracy. We are happy and excited that on 20th January 2015, we the people will choose.
Democracy however, is not without its challenges. Freedom could be a burden sometimes since it calls for responsibility. Democracy asks a lot from us. In fact, it demands a lot from us. We must be ready to give democracy its drink when it is thirsty. We must be ready to spare bread for democracy when it is hungry. We should be ready to be the legs, the hands and the feet for democracy when needed. It is in this vein that we must be clear in our resolute. Zambians must reject anything that could disturb our peaceful democracy. Once we elect to choose leaders through the ballot, we must ensure that we continue to elect leaders through the ballot. There are temptations to go for the shortcut. These are shortcuts we must not entertain. And I am excited that on 20th January 2015, we the people of Zambia are exercising our liberty to choose a president. It is the people’s choice that will matter on that day. When going to the ballot booths, I appeal to our people to be peaceful. If someone wants to cause confusion, let it not be you. I appeal to our people in Choma, in Chama and in Chipili to remain peaceable. It is the people’s vote that should speak on Tuesday and not fists. In Zambia the only political fight we should entertain is the fight done through the ballot box and not through the boxing ring. I appeal to our people to heed the Electoral Commission of Zambia. I appeal to our people not to wear provocative party regalia on Election Day. There has been enough time for campaigns. Tuesday will be the day to cast our ballots and not the day to wear our various political costumes.
To the candidates in this election, I appeal to you to appeal for calm among your supporters. Political violence is not a preserve of any one political party. As such, all candidates should take a comprehensive approach towards condemnation of electoral violence. From Mwinilunga to Lunga, and from Mpulungu to Mazabuka, there should be no reason why we should be exchanging fists of rage. Hichilema, Lungu, Mumba as well as all the other contenders should let their supporters know that violence will not be tolerated. The people of Milenge, Serenje and Sesheke all need peace!
After candidates have condemned violence, the next logical thing they should do is to respect the voice of the people. Candidates should be as peaceful as we want the ordinary supporters to be. Lungu, Hichilema, Mumba, Nawakwi and all the other contenders should be prepared to accept defeat if they are beaten in the elections. The whole reason why we are subjecting ourselves to a transparent electoral process is to allow the ordinary people of Zambia to make their voice heard through the ballot. No candidate should bury this voice. As such, the most logical thing to do after the elections is for the losers to graciously accept defeat. Losers should not take our country into the brink of feuds. Both MMD and PF should accept defeat if they lose. Additionally, both UPND and FDD should also accept defeat if they lose the election. It would be a terrible situation if these parties refuse to concede defeat. It is true that losing upsets. It really does hurt a lot. But in the interest of democracy, we should be able to accept the will of the people that they exercise through the ballot.
We must desist from making alarming statements about suspected rigging and stuff like that. I really do believe in the Electoral Commission of Zambia. Justice Mambilima and her great team at ECZ are working hard for their country. They need to be commended and appreciated during this time. Ordinary Zambians should also feel free to openly encourage Mambilima and her team. They are doing a great job and we look forward to a free and fair election on the 20th of January.
There is more to this election than just winning and losing. This election is also about replacing President Michael Chilufya Sata whose untimely death was painful for his family and for the nation. As a great tribute to his life, we must ensure that this election is held in the most peaceful of atmospheres. If PF loved Sata and indeed if UPND too loved President Sata, we want them to show it through a nonviolent electoral period. The same goes for Heritage Party, the MMD, the FDD, the ACP, UNIP, the Fourth Revolution and the so many other parties contesting the presidency.
When this column returns next week, a new President would already have been sworn-in. We have no idea who that individual is. But whatever the choice of the Zambian people, I will be happy with it! Let us continue to pray and hope that the next leader takes our great nation into the future we need. Happy Election Day Zambia!