Anti-voter Apathy (AVAP) executive director Richwell Mulwani says Zambia will continue having mediocre leaders as long as the use of bribery and violence remains part of the electoral system.
Commenting on the alleged bribery that characterized the Kafue Council Chairmanship by-elections, Mulwani said the trend of corrupting voters was a disservice to the nation.
“Even successive governments that we’ve had used to do the same, they would go with blankets, cooking oil, they would use money to bribe people and all that. This has been a trend in our country, especially for those in the ruling party. So as AVAP, we are not surprised because this trend has been there even in the past. So it’s a culture that has been entrenched in the campaign methodology of political parties. Even the party that is going to come, if at all there will be any party coming on board, we are going to see the same thing. But there is no way we can entrench this as a way of winning an election, where the voters are bribed, where the voters are promised so many things that do not even happen,” Mulwani said.
“So we continue to advise political parties that it is very important that they desist from these acts and this is why sometimes you see violence erupting because certain individuals are using money to bribe the people and they are using all sorts of languages so that they citizens can have fear…This happened even in the Chilanga by-elections where we went to monitor the elections. We saw an old man there complaining that he had lost his voter’s card and NRC just because cadres went there and they were writing the names of people who had these documents so that they could buy them. So really, these are not new things, they are things that we have been complaining about and people have even reported to us as AVAP.”
He said AVAP would continue urging the Anti Corruption Commission to arrest the trend.
“But the only thing we can do as an organisation is to continue advising political parties and also to appeal to the Zambia Police Service and the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Electoral Commission of Zambia that when such things are seen, those that are entrusted with this responsibility should act so that those that are practicing such things are arrested. We all know that bribing voters is against the electoral code of conduct, it’s against the law. But political parties have continued doing it because they know that that’s the only way they can get votes,” Mulwani said.
Mulwani said corruption had made voters get fed up with elections.
“Voters are tired of voting because they feel that there is no need for them to continue. But because political parties know that there is no other language that they can use, they go with bribes so that they can win the support of those voters and woo them to vote in a certain way. So this is how the situation has been in our country, therefore, we need to correct the situation because we cannot continue in the manner things are happening. You can go out there, people will tell you what has been happening. This is not a secret, it’s an issue that is known by many voters and even other stake holders and it needs to be addressed quickly,” he said.
Mulwani concluded that mediocrity would continue reigning the country’s leadership if citizens did not change the way they elected their representatives.
“When people are using money, violence and other under hand methods to remain in power, it becomes a challenge for genuine voters and genuine candidates who want to bide by the law and ensure that there is a leveled playing field for everyone to participate. Because democracy entails freedom to choose freely and participate freely in an election, but in our country this is not the case because we see people winning just because in the night they are very busy bribing people. This is what has been happening and truly, if these acts are not curtailed, we are going to continue to see mediocre kind of leadership taking over the making of decisions in our country and eventually, genuine people will shun away from voting because they don’t want to be associated with such kinds of corrupt,” said Mulwani.
“Also, this is what actually brings apathy because when people see others being given money and themselves haven’t gotten anything, they say ‘why should we go to vote when we haven’t benefited?’ So they tend to turn away because they see already a situation which is not conducive for them to participate. They feel that even if they go and cast the vote, they are cheated already because some people are not using the required parameters, they are not using the code of conduct and genuine rules so that they compete at a fair ground.”