Many voters in Lusaka have called the last elections for their city boss as one of the most dispiriting election in recent memory, for they had to choose between uninspiring leaders and undeserving parties with unpersuasive policies.
At the beginning before any of them opened their mouths to talk, it was hard to predict with certainty which party will win unless for partisan voters. Their still pictures and party slogans were so threatening and appealing. It was even much harder to fathom a thought about voting a mayor from any other party who would more or less be a loner in a highly PF dominated council. Maybe the election was merely academic and a formality than it was about anything. Parties participated for purposes of just participating, for self preservation and for party visibility. Voting for many such candidates and the votes they got was merely lending them credibility than it was about vested interests.
Many of the candidates that stood appeared to have a borrowed ambition, lent to them by their parties to fulfil its need to be seen in every electoral contest. Others stood in other constituencies before, others were presidential candidates, others were not residents of Lusaka themselves. Others have been identified and were positioning themselves in some remote places only to be seen to jump on the opportunity to stand on a position they have never had an ambition to become. Simply most if not ALL were OPPORTUNISTS.
Against that backdrop, it’s no wonder many voters didn’t turn up to vote. Most Lusaka residents were tempted to write off all the options as equally bad. Or to believe that their vote won’t make a difference because the results were somehow preordained.
Easy as it is to argue that elections are a waste of time, a vote is a terrible thing to waste at any time. Especially this time.
As the race for Lusaka mayor was officially ON and gaining national attention, many candidates focused their energies on social media mostly covering things that were and are unimportant to the ultimate voters.
The leading candidates in this crowded race failed to package their rosy campaign promises to attract the ordinary voter without confusing the message. Unfortunately they all run an elitist campaign, focusing on grammar and semantics other than a simpler message on major issues important to Lusaka residents. Issues like public safety especially with the advent of sporadic fires, transportation, and the economy of Lusaka itself.
In short, the debate about who was to be our new city boss was unattractive enough and failed to go well beyond dry questions of municipal governance. There was considerable doubt that Lusakanians were going to turn up in numbers to vote.
That would be a shame: dynamic cities need dynamic leaders, and just as this country needs more dynamic cities.
the city of Lusaka is building way more luxury housing and malls than actual affordable housing under the current central government
Many Lusaka voters still don’t know, that elected mayors with the city-wide mandate have a personal democratic mandate to “deliver change”, with the accountability that comes with high visibility. Mayors have at least the powers of a council leader expected to demand more powers, over transport, housing and so on—just as many mayors in highly civilised capital cities have grabbed powers over policing and planning.
Candidates faced questions about the usual big issues, like housing and homelessness, as well as an effort to figure out how to deal with the deficit in conducive trading places.
In their final debate just a week before the election, the two main candidates for mayor of Lusaka offered tales of two cities — two completely different tales, sparred over affordable housing, economic disparity.
So they disagreed on just about everything, including what to do about the high cost of housing.
Well, the city of Lusaka is building way more luxury housing and malls than actual affordable housing under the current central government.
Well above 70% of people in Lusaka live in inhabitable housing. We need a council that will invest in increasing affordable housing stock than malls.
What has the Lusaka city council invested in over the last three years should have been the main question. Lusaka is a good place for business—home to many universities but transport is a mess, and key bits of infrastructure are missing.
Barely half of Lusaka residents turned out for district elections because of how uninspired the electors were — making this the worst democratic deficit in Zambia.
Of course, many other voters said they know enough not to vote: They won’t show up because the politicians don’t measure up, and their promises don’t add up, and so a hex on all of them and a pox on all their parties.
In conclusion therefore, no one should blame the Lusaka voters for the low turn out. Instead the political parties and their front cadres themselves are to blame for this mockery. Politicians have not provided the right incentives to attract the voters, simply find and provide the right candidates and the voters will turn up enmasse. Not those overcooked shenanigans.
By Prince J. Ndoyi