TODAY marks a year since the watershed events of August 12, 2021 when Zambians of all backgrounds, tribe and political affiliation woke up as early as 03:00 hours in some cases to cast their vote in the highly competitive and heavily contested presidential and general elections.
Those elections ushered into office the United Party for National Development (UPND) and the country’s seventh President, Hakainde Hichilema.
Though August 12, 2021 has a lot of relevance to the UPND in particular and the former ruling party – the Patriotic Front (PF) for obvious reasons – that day signified the exemplary democratic credentials that Zambia has built over time.
Since attaining independence, democracy has been Zambia’s choice of choosing leaders.
The founding fathers of this country saw it fit to choose a system in which every individual would freely participate in deciding who should lead the country.
That system was fashioned in such a way that although the country has a population made up of a multiplicity of tribal and cultural groupings with different faiths and political affiliations, the people had to cast aside their differences and coexist in the choosing of national leaders.
Over the years, this practice has also served to strengthen the harmony and unity among the 73 tribes in the country to an extent that today, Zambia is known world over as an oasis of peace that even shelters people fleeing strife and war in other countries.
Zambia’s democratic credentials have played a very important role in peaceful power transitions, from first President Kenneth Kaunda, whose 27-year-rule came to an end with the birth of multi-party politics in 1991.
Dr Kaunda lost to trade unionist-turned politician, Dr Frederick Chiluba of the Movement for Multiparty democracy (MMD).
The second to lose elections to an opposition leader was fourth President Rupiah Banda (now late) of the MMD, who was defeated by late veteran politician Michael Sata of the PF in 2011.
Edgar Lungu was the third sitting President to lose elections to an opposition political party, which is now the ruling UPND.
All the leaders who lost power left office peacefully and graciously, providing a shining example to the continent of Africa and the world at large.
After five previous unsuccessful attempts (in 2006, 2008, 2011, 2015, 2016), Mr Hichilema finally won the presidential race last year.
His message of “vote for change” and “for a better Zambia” presented by the UPND resonated well with the electorate, resulting in them selecting him as the next Head of State.
In spite of certain undemocratic tendencies, such as electoral violence, which had characterised the build up during the campaigns leading up to voting day, the people of Zambia demonstrated unity by peacefully coming together to cast their votes.
This in itself demonstrated a rejection of the divisive and tribal practices some politicians had tried to champion.
The peaceful transition of power that followed was also exemplary of a country that has accepted to abide by its democratic principles.
This is an achievement worth cherishing.