Zambia and the 2021 elections

Tomorrow (14 May 2021), the Zambian parliament will automatically dissolve. This is in accordance with country’s constitution Article 81(3) which mandates for a period of ninety (90) days for campaigns before general elections are held. Of course, it is just the official campaign period. Anyone who has not been living under a rock will know that many actions of political parties in the recent weeks and months have been anything but campaigns. From large sums of money being dished out to political rallies and numerous Facebook live events, those eyeing for political office have made use of resources and means within their reach to sell themselves to the electorate well before the campaign period starts. Nonetheless, these 90 days are still crucial.

Much is at stake during the 12 August 2021 general elections. Things have changed since the last elections. Economically, the state of affairs leaves much to be desired. In July 2016, a month before the last general elections were held, I came back home from school for holidays. I brought with me a few British pounds and at the time, one (1) British pound could be exchanged for no more than fourteen (14) Zambian Kwachas. Today, a British pound would get me more than thirty (30) Zambian Kwacha. The same can be said about inflation and employment rates, they have all deteriorated in the past years. Let’s not get started on debt.

Needless to say, not everything has been bleak. There’s been some strides made in the same period. Nonetheless, there is a case to be made that the current economic situation is not optimal for millions of people. There is a sense in which the cost of living for the middle class man or woman has increased at a rate higher than income. Youths are faced with a labour market that cannot absorb them and those who wish to be entrepreneurs lack access to credit and capital. This and many other cases form the backdrop pouring down to the battleground on which this years’ election will be fought. The party that will (or at least should) take office is one that has concrete plans of revamping the economy and providing the basic needs of the country’s citizenry.

Such high stakes are met with equally numerous wishes and hopes. Personally, my wish is that these elections will be fought on the lines of ideology and persuasion. Enough of voting for a candidate because he/she is of a certain tribe. Enough of giving candidates votes because they are offering money, clothes, household goods or promises of future political or societal power. There is much more at stake in this election than any individual’s immediate personal gratification.

If I had a last wish for the elections this year, it would be to see the erosion of the line that split Zambia into two during the 2015 and 2016 elections. There was an almost perfect split right in the middle. On one side was the colour green and one the other, red. Remnant of colonialism, the line shows how large and by, voting on ethnic and tribal lines continues to be practiced. This year, I hope to see people vote for an individual not because of their ethnicity or tribe but because of the content of their character, their ideology and plans for the country. So if you have the privilege of voting this year, ask yourself, seriously, “Why am I voting for …?” If the reason is simply that is how you’ve always voted or because the said individual comes from a certain part of the country, think again. We need to see beyond those attributes.

May this election bring us together as a country. May we come out of it united. May we continue to be the country we’ve always been – a country of warm, welcoming happy people. That is the country I call home.

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