SHOULD PEOPLE BE FORCED TO VOTE?
At the SWAPO party star rally held in Katima Mulilo, Caprivi Strip a week ago, on the 12th of October 2014, the Secretary General of the party, Nangolo Mbumba, told the gathering that “it is your democratic right to vote for a party or candidate of your choice, and no one should tell or force you not to vote. It is your right.” SWAPO is the ruling party in Namibia since Namibia’s independence on 21 March 1990.
These utterances followed a striking warning by the Regional Governor, Lawrence Sampofu at the Lusata Cultural ceremony three weeks ago, no the 28th of September 2014, where he warned the public and traditional leaders to distance themselves from those who are telling people not to vote in the upcoming Namibian elections because they will soon be dealt with. The regional governor is a political appointee highest political authority in a region, and he is appointed by the state president.
On the eve of the Lusata ceremony, two councilors and a Caprivian SWAPO cadre also addressed district headmen at Chinchimani on the same subject. Councilors, Cletius Sipapela and Ignatius Chunga told the headmen that leaders of Caprivi Concerned Group were supposed to be arrested on the 21stof September 2014 for telling people not to vote in the upcoming election but they requested police not to do so until after the ceremony and the elections. Constituency councilors are party candidates elected every five years by constituency residents who are eligible to vote.
I believe that voting or not voting is currently the most debated issue in Caprivi as you can see above that leaders at constituency, regional and national level have said something about it. Take note that public utterances by leaders at these levels are “informed” utterances which supposedly have been decided upon at a certain organizational level.
Those who attended these events or gatherings and heard these warnings or threats were struck with one big question, as some of them asked us; can people be forced to vote? This is why I ask, should people be forced to vote? When I searched on the internet, I came across answers to the same question in an informal debate and poll on the following website or link: http://www.debate.org/opinions/should-people-be-forced-to-vote and it shows that 31 percent of people who participated said or voted yes (that people should be forced to vote) while 69 percent said or voted no (that people should not be forced to vote).
This debate of voting or not voting is surely beneficial to democracy and individual persons. It provokes critical thoughts or inquiry to the majority of us who always vote for no good reason but to impress leaders when in fact we should vote on contract or to better our social, economic and political life. It also prompts candidates or political parties to think deeper and speak objectively to convince people who have benefited nothing from their previous votes to vote for them again.
To an extent, the debate unwrap some constitutional and international law provisions for greater public discussion and comprehension. The right to freedom of opinion, speech, and expression are under spot light in this debate. It also set political leaders for greater public examination based on their public reactions to CCG. Such leaders stand a test to prove or be proven, to uphold and protect the constitution which they swore to uphold and protect. It stands to be observed if anarchy (lawlessness) in or promoted by, political leaders can be rebuked by the state (and/or the public) to protect both the public and the constitution.
There is no shortcut to democracy or a democratic government, just as there is no shortcut to heaven. Many Namibian political candidates and parties come out to the public only two months towards elections and expect the public to accept them so easily and vote for them without serious deliberations or examinations. Elections should not be about the amount of money spent on rallies and political-fashions but the depth of public engagement and the courage to address real issues. It is not about big spenders or loud speakers.
I am conscious of the fact that there will be no democratic government without democratic elections; hence, elections are an essential event to a life of a state and a country. It enables renewal of leaders, structures and the vision of any democratic state. Voting out of ignorance definitely gives birth to an ignorant government.This will be a government without true leaders and vision; governments that will never account for its ill actions such as corruption, torture, injustice, or a political dispute and will never take responsibility to address such issues.
In my view, the process of elections is a sanctification of government which is to be elected. Honesty and transparency is one of the core values which should be reflected both in the electorate and the candidates or political parties during election campaigns and thereafter.The electorate should openly and honestly tell candidates exactly what they truly need in their community. The electorate should not ask for a snake when they need fish and candidates should not threaten or force people to accept the snake which they do not need or which is not a priority!
In a case where none of the candidates or political parties is ready or accepts to address issues which some people or community set out as priorities, then there is no reason for such people to vote because none of such candidate shall represent them, and none of their issues will be addressed, in the new government. Not voting therefore becomes a right and reasonable choice.
There is another case, whereby people nay have voted in at least three subsequent elections hoping that promises made by parties or candidates will be fulfilled but such candidates or parties either never won, or won but did not fulfill or did not make an effort at all to address promises made. In this case, it is a waste of energy and absurd to vote for a candidate or partywhich you surely know that it will lose. It is even more foolish to be deceived four times to vote for leaders who, once in power, ignore your problems.
Meanwhile, our public meeting at Sisheke and Kaliyangile on Sunday, 19 October 2014 was successful and educative. As usual and as our style, we do not impose but engage and democratically discuss our no voting option with the public. We use to give attendants an overview of all our activities since 2012, state and motivate our no vote option and then give the public an unlimited time to ask questions or comment and we respond to the best of our knowledge, understanding and ability.
I conclude by informing CCG activists and supporters to remain steadfast to defend and advance our peaceful agenda. Be there to defend peace, justice and freedom at all times. Let all Namibian political parties and leaders continue showing their true character of deception and intimidation in reaction to, and fear of, CCG’s genuine and peaceful cause. Do not become a victim of deceptions and intimidations. It is your democratic right and choice not to vote, and no one should force you to vote.
People should not be forced to vote.
Caprivi Concerned Group