United in diversity

ZAMBIA will stand still next Thursday when more than six million of its citizens in every city, town, ‘‘boma’’, township, compound, village and isolated settlement will troop to polling stations nearest to them to cast their vote.

To many people the polling day is a carnival, a day of light banter, jokes and apprehension, wondering  how long one will stay in the queue and how his or her favourite candidate will fare.

Millions will leave whatever they do every day to go and stand in long queues for many hours to elect new leaders at presidential, legislative and local government level as well as vote in the referendum. Some will sleep in queues.

This is a mammoth task which demands sacrifice and love for one’s country to accomplish. It requires cool heads, patience and the desire to do for one’s country that which is demanded of every patriot.

Every Zambian that day, registered to vote or not, will play a major role to ensure the country is calm and the election is a success.  To do that Zambians need to do what they know best – maintain peace, ignore provocation and simply focus on the task ahead, which is voting.

Even millions of those without voters’ cards but have national registration cards who, for one reason or another, missed to register or renew their voters’ cards, have a chance to participate in the national exercise by voting in the national referendum by simply going to the polling station with their NRC.

All of us except those below 16 years of age will have the opportunity to vote on that day. This has never happened before. Those who will pitch up to vote next Thursday will make history and it is an occasion they will cherish for the rest of their lives: that they once voted with only their NRC.

But as millions of citizens brace for that special day, many are worried.

The current spate of political violence that has engulfed the country threatens to dampen the mood of the electorate. Many fear it could spoil the party when potential voters will stay away for fear of intimidation or being caught up in electoral violence.

It is for this reason we join the hundreds of political, church, civil society and traditional leaders who have pleaded with Zambians to observe peace and tolerance on that important day. The world is watching.

Right now hundreds of election observers from around the world have descended on Zambia to find out how mature we are to govern ourselves and maintain our reputation as a fledgling democracy and an example to many of our African contemporaries.

This is a record we have achieved for ourselves at great cost which we must maintain and improve on.

It is a proud record and a marvelous achievement for a small, poor country, united in difference and diversity. This is what baffles the world about Zambia and defies their imagination.

For 51 years we have conquered insurmountable political and economic obstacles and established for ourselves a tradition of a free, fair and credible electoral process that has been an envy to so many. We have fashioned the Electoral Commission of Zambia into one of the most respected institutions in electoral management.

President Edgar Lungu has repeatedly put it on record that Zambia is bigger than all of us, including him. No candidate or his or her supporters  should imagine that they must WIN this election, whatever it takes. That is not democracy; it is anarchy.

Democracy is to surrender oneself to the will of the people and accept the outcome. Anything less is the rule of the jungle.