To vote or not to vote

If you don’t know, you don’t know

Kalekeni Kaphale

I did not have a chance to vote in the May general elections and I was so envious of those that did. To be able to have a say on the type of leadership my country should have is something I do not take for granted and in as much as the Malawi electoral process can you leave you wondering if your vote matters, I refuse to give up hope that one day it will truly matter. The drama and chaos that followed the election was inevitable. To say that the people of Malawi felt duped would be an understatement and to say that the process was smooth would be equivalent to saying it snows in Malawi. When the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and United Transformation Movement (UTM) parties decided to take the Malawi Electoral Commission(MEC)and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to court, I did not realize the implication of that action on the democratic process in Malawi. I can’t lie, I am a pessimist when it comes to issues of governance in Malawi. I did not even want to follow the case as I did not want to bring my hopes up and have them crushed mercilessly, needless to say, the jury’s still out on that as the case is ongoing. I changed my tune on not listening to the testimony when Daud Elvin Suleman, a witness for MCP and IT expert took the stand. I think what drew me to his testimony were the headlines that were published in the papers that Thursday about the problems they had in court setting the IT simulation equipment. So on Friday morning as I did a task I so heavily detest (laundry), I listened to his testimony. No matter the outcome of this case, his testimony was a game changer, when Mr. Suleman pointed out that MEC officials had used personal email addresses to access elections data and an unknown user has also accessed the data, I figured it was a foregone conclusion that some laws were broken. There’s so much on the IT aspect of the elections case and as a Health IT professional, I am looking forward to the release of the court transcripts because there will be so much to talk about. As my title indicates, I wanted to dwell more on the issue of whether voting in our society is necessary. I have only voted in one general election and my candidate lost. I was crushed and disappointed especially with the amount of irregularities that were involved. A part of me never wanted to vote again and this conviction intensified when I saw how the just ended general elections were handled. It is easy to see why people are becoming increasingly apathetic to elections, but these same determine what kind of taxes we pay and whether a family in Chitipa will be able to have food on the table. Folks in the cities might say they no longer care about voting as they do not feel that their lives will change that much but things change, it might be slow but they do. A great example of this might be the urbanization boom we are starting to see in Malawi, if a person in a rural area does not have the resources to sustain a livelihood, they will move to the city since they are likely to believe that they can make some money there. Now think of the strain this imposes on our already small cities where the land is being stolen before our very own eyes (topic for another post)and water is starting to become a scarce commodity, it is a krebs cycle of sorts. The outcome of this elections court case will determine whether voter apathy will become entrenched in our political process or not, but I firmly believe it is our right and responsibility as Malawians to vote. There are a lot areas we need to address before we can say our vote is truly for the candidate that is bringing the best ideas to the table for all of us. To highlight a few, intensive voter education is needed, we need to teach people that voting should not be about tribal or regional affiliation, we are all Malawians and that what’s important. Each election matters, even the ones for a ward councillor matter, MEC has pointed out that the turnout for non-general elections is low and we need to fix this. We need to start educating people at the grassroots on what a policy is and how it can determine whether you will get electricity or a hospital built in your area or not and possibly including these things in the school curriculum could do us some good. I believe that there is a lot we need to address as a nation before we can finally say the will of the majority is being followed. As for me, as long I am able to, I will exercise my right to vote.

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