Anti-Voter Apathy (AVAP) Executive Director Richwell Mulwani says the drastic reduction in voter turnout in the just ended Lusaka mayoral by-election shows that Zambians are not inspired to vote because leaders do not fulfill their promises.
And Mulwani says the voter turnout that was recorded in the Mayoral by-elections is the worst and lowest ever in the history of Lusaka district, and that this could be attributed to a number of factors, among them; the electorate fearing to be attacked by political cadres when going to cast their votes and the ultimate failure by leaders to fulfill promises when elected into office.
Commenting on 16.8% voter turnout in the all seven constituencies from the over 50% recorded in the 2016 general elections for all registered voters in Lusaka district, Mulwani told News Diggers in an interview that people refused to turn up at their respective polling stations to cast their votes because they do not have confidence in their leaders.
“According to us, when you look at the 839,627 registered voters and only have 133,392 as voter turnout, the worry is that we are not moving in terms of addressing the issues that people are not happy with. To us this is a protest vote, it’s a protest vote because in the previous elections, the Mayoral position in Lusaka, the people that casted their votes were 456,623. It was giving us 55.38% as people that voted. Now we cannot have this 16.8% as people that voted. Look at the reduction, the reduction is too much. And there are just so many factors for these results and when we were going round as an organisation, we discovered that many people actually had serious challenges. It was clear that even if the elections were peaceful, people still had fear in their hearts that definitely violence was going to be there because they know how congested Lusaka is and they know that there are some hot spot areas of violence like Kanyama, Chawama, Mandevu and Matero. And it’s understandable because people were basing their judgment in the previous [incidences] where the market was gutted and all we could see was violence,” Mulwani explained.
“Those from the opposition were saying that they are not allowed actually to even wear their regalia during campaigns. And this is very true, when we were going round, we found that the opposition had no regalia, they were saying ‘what you are seeing going to intercity in an opposition regalia, you will be attacked’. So people are scared, they have the regalia in their homes but they cannot put them on due to fear that they are going to be attacked by PF cadres. That in itself did turn away voters. And the other thing is that majority of the voters do not belong to any political party, they are just simple voters who have a passion for their democracy. But because of the behaviours of political parties and their cadres, those people are now withdrawing from voting and the people that cast the votes on Thursday, those are the people that belong to political parties. So the actual citizens who don’t belong to any political parties did not go to vote because they were scared that they cannot face this issue of violence ”
Mulwani said the voter turnout recorded in the just ended Mayoral by-election was the worst and lowest ever for Lusaka.
“This is the lowest voter turnout and it’s actually the worst because in the previous elections that we have been having, the voter turnout has been okay. It has been very impressive actually and I have just given you the sample to say in the previous elections, we had 456,623 that voted but now we have 133,392. you can see the gap that’s there. It means that the voting has been dwindling. People were saying that they have been voting for so many years and they have not seen anything that has changed in their livelihood. So this is where now people feel they are no longer inspired to vote, even if they vote, life will just be the same and nothing will change in their livelihood. So this means that the politicians are not doing their part. Sometimes they can be doing whatever the are doing, like coming up with roads but maybe that is not the priority of the citizens in that particular province or constituency. So this is what is injuring most citizens because they can’t see things moving, they are troubled everyday. So that needs to be addressed by government to ensure that everyone is living an acceptable life.”
“And there are so many factors like the lack of development and interface between the elected leaders and the people. The lack of prioritisation in terms of projects and the lack of planning together where elected leaders plan with the people, that’s also an issue. And then when it comes to laws, we are talking about the Constitution, the public order Act, we are talking about the electoral Act and the powers of the Electoral Commission of Zambia. We should be able to disqualify a candidate or a political party that misbehaves during the electoral process, during the campaigns. We know that in this country cadres are more powerful than the police, this is what is there. You may have seen what happened at Nakatindi Hall where the PF cadres were forcing entry even when they were not accredited. So to us, those are problems that we should be dealing with,” Mulwani said.
Mulwani called on government to focus on addressing the problems that people were facing.
“We cannot pretend as a nation, we have a problem and this problem must be addressed now because now what is happening is that we are creating a problem in society. The citizens that are not going to have the power to speak. So we need a clause in the Constitution that can allow the citizens to call back the elected leader and say ‘you promised this and it has not happened’. We know that Miles Sampa and the PF signed a contract with the people of Lusaka, there is a social contract that they signed and if it fails, they need to be held accountable but there is no legal process to this effect. It’s just verbal and it cannot be used to hold someone to account. So these are problems that we are saying must be addressed,” said Mulwani.
“Then also, the peace accord that PF and UPND signed is a good thing but it must trickle down to the cadres, to each and every political member so that they can understand. Not a situation where the big people sign that deal but then people in the compounds are fighting as cadres. I think it doesn’t make sense and that is becoming a problem in our country. We need to be professional in the ay we are conducting our politics in our country, there is no way we can be using violence as a means to win an election. I think that is undermining the confidence of the voters.”