The Youth Vote: A Review of Zambia’s 2021 General Elections

In June this year, during the Afrobloggers Winter Blogging Challenge, I wrote briefly about a constitutional debate that was going on in Zambia and also mentioned that Zambia will be having elections on the 12th of August. Today is the 16th August, 2021 and voting day is well behind us.

Before my excitement for election season dies out, I decided to write this and share a few things I found interesting during this whole period from campaigning until today so please stick with me.

You Can Also Read: Zambian Politics: The Constitutional Debate

I am not in Zambia at the moment and so I was unable to vote. That is something I feel bad about because I feel like I missed out on such a historical moment. Knowing very well that I wouldn’t be able to vote, I still took time to involve myself in everything going on, hearing candidates out and seeing what everyone has to offer.

The Presidential Candidates

The first thing to note is that Zambia had 16 presidential candidates in this years elections. 16! I think that’s a big number. For someone to be able to stand for president in Zambia, one had to pay K95,000 and meet a number of other requirements as outlined in the constitution. While 16 candidates is a lot, I believe it shows that no one will be denied a chance to stand for president and in some way, it is a reflection of democracy. I think a good number of them had the same ideas and could have easily come together to form one party. If you end up getting 2 votes in a constituency where another candidate gathered 60,000 votes, surely you just wasted a lot of money and need to revisit the drawing board.

The Presidential Debate

This is arguably one of the best things to happen to Zambia’s election process. It gives people a chance to listen to the candidates and hear how they answer questions as well as become more informed about their plans especially if they didn’t attend any of the physical rallies or related things. It was during this debate that I learnt Zambia had 16 presidential candidates. The debate was held over two days and in two groups. Specifically, the 3rd and 4th August in groups of eight each. Having so many candidates definitely disadvantaged them in some way because I would like to believe if they had less candidates, they would have been given more than a minute and a half to answer questions.

Additionally, there was barely any actual debating going on and I blame that on the candidates and not the organizers. At some point, I believe the candidates were agreeing with each other and while there is nothing wrong with agreeing, I’d have loved them to tell us why they are the better person to carry out a specific task than the next person. I can count the number of times this actually happened during the debate. These are clearly tips for the next campaign season.

Lastly, still on the debate, it would be nice if attending the presidential debate was somehow made mandatory. The top 2 contendors of this year’s presidential race were absent from the debate for different reasons relayed by them and their teams. It would be lovely if everyone showed up. Regardless, I really enjoyed the debates.

Campaigning vs Governance

On 9th August 2021, The Village ZM hosted the former Minister of Higher Education and member of the Patriotic Front (PF), Honorable Brian Mushimba. Among many things addressed and explained during this space, one thing that caught my attention was a statement he made about campaigning and governance. I believe the question he was asked had to do with whether he felt like they had delivered based on his party’s campaign promises. His response was that there was a difference between campaigning and governance. He further went on to talk about procedures that cannot easily be changed and how someone may promise one thing but then once they get into government, they realise that actually, what they promised cannot be done. (Paraphrased)

This shocked me in the sense that I strongly believe that there shouldn’t be a difference between campaigning and governance. The difference only exists because the political parties create it and that difference is what contributes to the votes. My question to that was why make promises about things that you cannot change? Why talk about changing things when you have no idea how those systems work.

Creating a difference between campaigning and governance is one of the main things that got Zambia to where it was at the end of the Patriotic Front’s rule. Surely there will never be a good enough reason to lie to millions of people just to make your way to State House or Parliament. There is simply no need to lie.

The following day in another space organised by The Village ZM, UPND’s Mayoral candidate, Victor Nyasulu was hosted along with Member of Parliament candidate for Lusaka Central Constituency, Mulambo Haimbe. When Mr Haimbe was asked a question about how they would change certain areas and things concerning the youth he said “An honest attempt will be made to…” Honestly, that was it for me especially after hearing that people sometimes tell lies just to get into power. Honesty goes a long way. Not just in life in general but in politics too.

The difference between campaigning and governance should have never existed and it should seize to exist.

Voting Day and The Social Media Restriction

In my post about the constitutional debate, I briefly mentioned the possibility of an internet or social media blackout because that seems to be the new trend in African countries. Even after knowing that it was a possibility, I was still so shocked that social media platforms were actually blocked. I really couldn’t believe that we had made it to the list of countries that have experienced such and some are still experiencing the same.

Four days have gone by since the restriction happened (the apps are no longer restricted) and I still don’t know or understand the reason why that was done. People quickly downloaded VPNs and were still active on social media.

The act of blocking social media or restricting usage is one that still baffles me to this day and I do not wish to speak on it any longer. While it is something of the past for Zambia, it still goes down in the history books.

Results Announcements

I only have one thing to say to the Electoral Commission of Zambia (if they ever read this). While I understand that keeping us on the edge of our seats is their job, they could really improve when it comes to time keeping. I did not sleep well these last few days because on top of already having a horrible sleeping schedule, the six hour time difference did not help the case at all. I hope 5 years from now, when they say they will make an announcement at 12pm, they will make it at 12pm. Or they could just under promise and over deliver. That works for me too.

The “Disgruntled Youths”

On 3rd June 2020, Bowman Lusambo referred to the youth as disgruntled and said that “their expression of opinions was an act of stupidity and stinking nonsense”. He also “ordered the youth to stop expressing their opinions forthwith, warning that they were ‘too naked to misbehave.'” (Ref: National Assembly of Zambia)

Too many things were going on in the country and him saying that about the Zambian youth was not taken lightly. For the first time since I became interested in politics, I actually saw the youth step up and and really make sure they got what they wanted. In this year’s elections, the youth came out in large numbers and made sure they voted. The commission did not expect such a huge voter turn out.

It is for this reason that I say I really missed out on such a historical moment. These elections really showed what happens when people are exhausted and just want something different. The UPND was able to see the hunger in the youth and they capitalised on it. The party president and now Zambia’s President-elect, Hakainde Hichilema, really interacted with the youth and made them feel like they were actually being listened to. It is from one of the many interactions he had with the youth that the name “Bally” came about as a way of referring to him. (Bally is slang for “father”.)

To say I am proud of the “young people” of Zambia would be an understatement. I believe a very loud and strong message has been sent to everyone involved in government. The youth will hold everyone accountable and they actually do have power and today, they are so full of hope for equal opportunities and just something better for everyone. The “disgruntled youth” won after all.

There is a lot more I could say but I should end here. If you read this far, I hope you have a great day.

Zambia has a new president and I am hopeful for positive change. Today, Zambia is an example of what democracy should look like and I am very proud to be Zambian. I can only hope for the same for the other African countries that are fighting for change.

If you were in Zambia or have been following the news on Zambia’s elections, please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts on everything. I would love to know!

A huge shout out to everyone who voted.

Congratulations to the President-elect and soon to be President of the Republic of Zambia, Mr. Hakainde Hichilema as well as the incoming Vice President, Mrs Mutale Nalumango

Thanks for reading,
Wonani Xx

Hello guys! I know some of you were shocked to see this post. I would have loved to tell you about where I have been or what has been going on but I will save that for another day. Today I decided to do my part in preserving history and write my thoughts on 2021’s elections. I was unable to vote in the elections and so I’d like to think as this as my contribution to this year’s election.

I am back to regular programming. A new blog post every Monday at 8pm GMT +8 ( apart from today). Leave a comment and don’t forget to follow the blog!

6 thoughts on “The Youth Vote: A Review of Zambia’s 2021 General Elections

  1. I was almost at the point where I would have said elections are a useless thing and the will of the people subverted, but this really has been inspirational, and yeah sometimes all those thoughts shared online can make a difference, I guess one can download a democracy as I read it somewhere 🤣

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can’t even find the words to properly express how I feel. This really is a historic moment and I’m very proud to be one of the youths that took part in this election. I voted and my vote counted. The stakes are high for the president-elect and hopefully this is a new dawn for mother Zambia. She’s been through a lot and it would be lovely to see her smile.

    Liked by 2 people

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