Thursday, 9 November 2017


Someone once said, people get the government that they deserve. I would go further and say that people get the political aspirants that they tolerate, that they allow and that they choose to turn a blind eye to by not participating in the voting process.

A curious question that has become a fad among Zimbabweans as we approach election season is, "Well, who will I vote for?" This is a common excuse for people who choose not to register to vote. They do not see the point because the candidates before them are either 'more of the same', deeply uninspiring or altogether not winsome.

This question belies a misunderstanding of the importance of political participation. Widespread participation in the political process means that more people are watching who is running for office, more people are asking who is a credible candidate, more people are asking about the respective candidates' plan for progress and more people are scrutinizing the motives of those seeking public office. When more people are involved, the pool to choose from improves dramatically because those with no record or a poor record and those who have insufficient credentials end up falling through the cracks. All things being equal, candidates of good quality and competence rise to the top.

Poor candidates are the direct result of a citizenry that does not participate. When people do not participate, terrible candidates manage to get elected because nobody is watching and nobody cares. It is a chicken and egg scenario in the classic sense - except the apathetic citizen comes before the terrible candidate. Why are we afraid to ask tough questions of those who choose to run? Why are we so ready to offer blind support? Why do we not run ourselves? Why are we so fixed on the problem of there being no-one to vote for but completely unwilling to solve the underlying problem?

We forget too, that registering to vote is not just about the Presidential election of 2018. It is registering to make your voice heard for every election that comes thereafter. It is about forcing yourself to consciously scrutinize who will represent you at local government level - who will be responsible for fixing your roads and providing clean water to your area. It is about knowing who your Member of Parliament is - who will deconstruct complex legislation for you and who will place your views before the august house on matters of national and societal importance.

 It is about who will steer the grand ship of this nation to safe harbour given the turmoil of the last number of decades. When you choose not to vote or not to register to vote, you are turning your back on your right to have your voice heard on matters that will eventually become your daily struggle.

So instead of asking - "who do I vote for?" Ask - what are the candidates offering? What is their strategy? Demand that they align their agenda with yours. And if need be, throw your hat into the ring having answered all the foregoing questions for yourself.

Finally, always ask - if I don't register to vote and I ultimately do not participate in the electoral process, where will that leave me? Will it lead to better governance, better services, a strong economy and solid public health.

Or does it play straight into the hands of those who seek to appropriate this country for their private benefit at the expense of the public, to those who will pour champagne down the drain while you are struggling to access tap water, to those who play political games with your livelihood while you struggle to pay school fees, to those who will make poor civil servants pay for their excessive gatherings to promote their personal projects, to those who will charter your aircraft to fly around the world while you can barely get a decent flight to Joburg...

Never forget who wins when the citizens lose the will to participate. #BeTheChange #RegisterToVote. Advocate Fadzayi Mahere via Facebook


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