THE period we are now entering is very crucial to the democratic process of our country. We are very close to another decisive election. This is a process when the state of our so-called democracy is put to the test. It is a time for the electorate to evaluate the performance of the leaders and also to analyse the vision of would be leaders.

Unfortunately, our evaluation of the current leadership makes sad reading. Here we are as a country with a leadership that, instead of slowing down with its abuse of state power, is rather escalating its authoritarian streak and pushing towards a prolonged stay in government.

We know that Zambians know how to use their electoral moments very well when they can and that it is the young people of this country who determine the electoral outcome, but we are worried to observe that during this period, authoritarian regimes always attempt to subvert electoral choices. They do not do this on the day of elections, but way before. They use various methods of manipulating the voters’ roll and thereby deterring the will of the people.

African dictators have become so sophisticated from country to country because they are now copying ideas from each other in manipulating democratic provisions of the Constitution. In almost all elections, there are external partners, there are foreign powers that are investing technology and financial support to authoritarian leaders to help them subvert the people’s electoral choices.

This is what we see happening in Zambia. Our leaders seem to know that the number of the youth population that is unemployed, that is languishing on the street, that is capable of influencing the electoral outcome, is overwhelming. But they are not ready to go without a fight, so tyranny is also organising itself in a manner never seen before. It is worrying when a country reaches this level of desperation because it means our tyrannical leaders will do everything in their power to defeat the very tenets of democracy.

It is almost a uniform action by all tyrannical regimes to establish means of watering down the Constitutions in their favour, while claiming to be doing so on behalf of the people. They deploy the coercive apparatus of the state to suppress alternative voices and shut down free speech and so on. Again, this is what we see happening in our country.

When you look at the speed at which the PF government has moved with their so-called statutory self-regulation of the media, it speaks to the ruling party’s agenda of narrowing further the operating space for critical private media. The timing of this calculated intervention fits very well into the narrative that this regime is preparing for a long stay in power, with or without a legitimate mandate from the people.

We want to urge all institutions of governance in this country to take the side of the people. It is time all the people employed in ministries, parastatals and all strategic state institutions such as the Electoral Commission of Zambia, the Judiciary and law enforcement agencies to begin to think about their future and the future of their children. They need to ask themselves what kind of a Zambia they want to leave behind.

Tyrannical regimes are nothing without these institutions agreeing to be compromised, and it starts from the choices that individuals make. No leader of these critical institutions can deliver the wishes of their oppressive appointing authorities if the workforce on the ground refuses to bend the rules of democracy. These are the foot soldiers we are appealing to. You are the hope and the future of this country and it is time you began to embody the revolutionary spirit, giving no chance to those who wish to subvert the will of the people in the electoral process.

Authoritarianism, state capture and tyranny cannot be fought by the opposition because they are just as much an interested party in the electoral process. While we appreciate the fact that the opposition has the responsibility to provide checks and balances and to demand political and fiscal accountability, we believe that they, too, need to be carefully examined. Therefore, it is a heavier responsibility on the common man to decide who must lead the country and how they must lead.

This common man is the bus driver, the doctor, the teacher, the farmer, the junior civil servant in a ministry, the judge and the lawyer, the investigator at ACC, DEC, FIC, ZRA, and the employees of the Electoral Commission of Zambia, among others. You have the power to change the course of this country. Don’t surrender the fight for mother Zambia to the political leadership of the opposition, don’t leave the fight in the hands of machete wielding and gun-toting cadres. It’s your country, play your part in retrieving it from the jaws of dictatorship.