TEMPERATURE IN ZAMBIA AS THE SOUTHERN AFRICAN BUTTERFLY GOES TO THE POLLS.

                            by Vanessa Chisakula and Gerry Sikazwe

With a few hours to go to the polls, the weight of air can tell you that something big is coming. From Social Media posts and hashtags to campaign songs and campaign rally footages showing the temperature of this Southern African country. Zambia is heading to the polls on 12th August 2021; this tripartite or harmonized election will decide the seventh Zambian administration since that of the founding father, renowned freedom fighter, and first president of the Republic of Zambia, the late Dr. Kenneth David Kaunda. With only 56 years of independence, Zambia boasts to have experienced some of the most tranquil power changes, from Dr. Kaunda’s One Party State to Dr. F.T.J Chiluba’s Multi-party System, and onwards.

As is expected in these dying moments of the wait for people to cast votes and for others to be ushered into political offices, participating political parties and their sympathizers are all certain that they will pick a lot of votes and establish a government. Even with the looming presence of Covid19, campaigns are ongoingly punctuated by the use of campaign songs in loudspeakers, television and radio-based interviews, and advertisements. Google ads seem to play in too, as some political parties are placing ads on blogs, websites, and online apps. As is the custom, rallies, and distribution of political party regalia and artifacts have dominated the campaign scene.

File Photo of PF Campaign Rally August 2021

The participation rate of young people in the forthcoming elections at the local government and parliamentary level is impressive—something to look forward to. Other than that, there is going to be a lot of other young people voting for the first time. The number of first-time voters is quite high to indicate the civic knowledge most young people thus acquired but also the growth in the patriotism to their country. This is a definite turn in the right direction seeing that the government that is going to be formed will affect young people as well. So, to have young people represented in the government would restore confidence and also map out development that is inclusive of the betterment of youth and women.

An ECZ Poster Showing a Youth Casting a Vote

There seems to be reduced violence compared to the one witnessed during and after the 2016 elections, maybe it is too early to say. The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) joined by activist voices and civic bodies has kept on demanding and encouraging violence-free interactions among political parties. The rivalry energy is still thick, most between the two big contesting political parties the United Party for National Development Zambia (UPND) and the ruling Patriotic Front Zambia (PF). We hope this competitiveness continues but does not lead to violence rather to fruitful political sportsmanship.

There are two major positions currently being held as expected in an election; demand for a  change and another a continuation. Based on a number of slip-ups by the ruling PF, many people want a change chorusing that the ruling party has failed and must be failed too. On the other hand, there are still people who are forgoing the slip-ups: the case of the Healthy Ministry’s drug scandal, the debt issues, and the lack of job creation for the youth, these die-hards are focusing their attention on some praiseworthy deliveries of the government like infrastructure development involving malls and roads. It is difficult to predict who will win, but what is clear now is that the lines have been drawn and soon the race will commence.

Zambian people are heavily interested in the outcomes of these elections, from young people to the old, from the employed to the unemployed; marking the conclusion that even though elections are primarily about political parties, and seem to be very divisive, they really are a uniting activity. An activity that makes citizens look at each other and disagree or agree on what best they think they need to transform their country, communities, families, and lives for the better. At the polls, it will not be this party sympathizer against other parties but in a large way about deciding their fate.

File Photo of UPND Campaign Rally August 2021

The temperature is ripe, and the land is ready for tilling and planting. Everyone is looking at the calendar and time with the anxiety that often leads to the making of a big decision. First-time voters are waiting with excitement and soberness hoping to make the right choice while returning voters are equally eager to register their feelings and hopes for the country. It indeed now remains to the voting day and the voter turnout. Covid19 poses a peculiar challenge, but learning from Uganda and neighboring Malawi who both held their elections in such dark times, apathy may not be high and the wishes of the majority will be represented in the decision. In all, Zambia is going for the polls and Zambians are ecstatic about the elections and anxious about the outcome. We wish at the close of the exercise, it will be Zambia that wins.

Vanessa is the Cofounder and National Coordinator of Word Smash Poetry – a movement that encourages creative free expression among Southern African youth “artivists” and promotes social Pan Africanism. She is the CIPE 2021 Youth Leadership Program Fellow; Gerry Sikazwe is the communication lead at Word Smash Poetry Movement, a seasoned literary voice on issues pertaining to youth development. He lives and writes from Lusaka, Zambia. They both write here on their personal capacity.

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