MONGU Diocese Bishop Evans Chinyama Chinyemba says the Electoral Commission of Zambia should have foreseen that many students will not be in the centres where they registered and should have come up with another way to address this challenge.
In the diocesan online magazine – Drum Beat, August edition – From The Bishop’s desk, Bishop Chinyemba said the 2021 elections were a challenge to students’ exercise of democracy.
“Most of you registered in the centres of your colleges and universities as you expected you would be in residence by the time of elections. Most of you are first time voters and you had hoped to participate in these elections. Now that colleges and universities are closed, I am aware that some of you will be financially constrained and unable to travel back to your respective colleges or universities in order to cast your ballot,” he said. “We are aware of the predicament you find yourselves in. It is my opinion that ECZ should have foreseen that many students will not be in the centres where they registered, and should have come up with another way to address this challenge.”
He said the August 12 elections should reflect a mature electorate who cast their ballot with responsibility for the wellbeing and future good of the nation.
“May your vote speak for the many young people and others who are unable to vote because of age and other circumstances beyond their control,” he said. “As a way of introduction to this edition; I begin this Drumbeat reflection by quoting William McElvaney when, in describing the artistic works of Yaacov Agam writes: ‘The particular work by Agam in our home is a reticulated lithography called Undersea Rainbow. It consists of many circles and interacting shapes of varying colour. The viewer does not look into a fixed, static scene, but rather participates in the art to become a part of the art. As the viewer moves, colors and forms change according to the viewer’s shifting position and points of view. In other words, what you see depends on where you stand…Undersea Rainbow has yet more to suggest. Even though it draws us into its rich movement and color on its own terms, the whole truth of the matter is that what we see depends on our point of viewing’… Banabahesu, where have you been standing in the past few years and in the past few months? Where do you stand right now in order to view what is happening around you? Where do you wish to stand in the next few days so that you understand the situation of the country?”
Bishop Chinyemba said this month Zambia stands at the threshold of the nation’s general elections.
“We are a democratic nation that elects our leaders through the ballot box by casting our vote. What kind of leadership do you want? Where do you stand on the Undersea Rainbow of Zambian politics? Your position of viewing the country prompts you to go and line up and vote. Just like the Undersea Rainbow, standing at a certain position you will see things differently,” he said. “As you stand before the Undersea Rainbow of Zambian politics, do you see yourself having benefited so that you have become prosperous, wealthy, powerful, empowered, wanting for nothing? Will this experience determine how you cast your vote? Before you cast your ballot, ask yourself; how is my neighbour doing economically and socially? Conscience speaks to you, guides you and challenges you in these few days remaining before we go to the polls.”
Bishop Chinyemba said on the other hand, as Zambians stand before the Undersea Rainbow of Zambian politics, and their life experience had been one of poverty, deprivation, powerlessness, suffering, illness and harassment, their vote would reflect their experience.
“How will your vote reflect what you see around you? Banabahesu, you can no longer stand there and continue criticising government, you have a right to vote and change that which you feel is not right. Again, conscience speaks to you and directs your steps,” he said.
He told politicians that having gone round the country and constituencies and addressed various political meetings and other forms of gatherings they now know what shape the country was in.
Bishop Chinyemba said in such meetings and gathering, they were privileged to address many people.
“Are the people you met in all those meetings happy? Are they contented? Are they encouraged by your words and promises? Have you encountered people who are desperate, hungry, illiterate, and impoverished? Did you see the marks of pain and suffering and anxiety written on their faces? As aspiring leaders, what vision and hope can you hold up to such a people? In Philippians 2:4 we find these words, ‘Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.’ The masses of people who came to your meetings are the others Paul is referring to in this verse,” he said. “As each election year comes around, very often we seem unprepared. Zambians have to argue about the process of registration of voters. We begin talking about issues of obtaining National Registration Cards. Another challenge we seem to struggle with is the recruitment of poll staff, at times abandoning the prescribed regulation of how such staff should be recruited. In many cases the nation has problems with the management of election results to the discouragement of the electorate.”
Bishop Chinyemba wondered what election officers see when they stand in front of the Undersea Rainbow of Zambian elections.
“You as election officers are the custodians of people’s hopes and aspirations during the election,” he said.
Bishop Chinyemba said to stand before the Undersea Rainbow of Zambian politics and elections called on everyone to examine their consciences.
“Banabahesu, you are not just members of the Church, you are also ‘faithful citizens’ who are motivated by faith and gospel values which Christ died for. To all Catholics and people of good will, I offer this teaching of the Catechism of Catholic Church no.1778 [which] states, ‘Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognises the moral quality of a concrete act that he/she is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed,” said Bishop Chinyemba. “In all he/she says and does, is obliged to follow faithfully what he/she knows to be just and right.’ Banabahesu, today it is not my duty to tell you how to and for whom you should vote. Mine is to help you reflect on your experiences and form your consciences in accord with God’s will. Recognising that the responsibility to make choices in political life rests with each individual in the light of a properly formed conscience, I call upon you to go out and vote. After all it is your civic duty.”