9 hours 4 Change

Updated: Aug 18, 2021

Dear Africana Woman,

Last Friday I was in a fast food store buying ice-cream. One of the few pleasures I do not deny myself. Usually said store is bustling with people but on that day there were only three customers at the counter. I couldn’t help but glance at the hands of my fellow shoppers. You see I was looking for the ink mark on their thumbs that would indicate that they had exercised their right to vote in the highly anticipated Zambian presidential elections, held the day before on 12th August, 2021. Alas to my disappointment both men did not have the mark. In retrospect they could have been truck drivers making a pit stop on the way to the border. Nonetheless, clearly the elections were top of mind for me.

I had driven to Kabwe to our family home on the eve of the elections in the evening. I had strategically made the decision to vote away from the capital city more than a year ago. History had shown that rising tension between the two biggest parties, Patriotic Front (PF) and United Party for National Development (UPND), would most likely explode in the major urban centres. This is why despite having finished my last meeting at 6pm, I was determined to get out of the city. It took 3 hours to arrive in Kabwe. Very tired from the day I jumped straight in bed knowing I would have to wake up in less than 6 hours if I was to get a decent spot in the line at the polling station. Fortunately, my friend Lau from Argentina volunteered to give me a wakeup call.

On 12th August, 2021 4:45am the call came in from Argentina. Actually, I missed the first one at 4:30am. But I was up. The rules of the polling station were that no one could wear party regalia. With 16 parties vying for the spot there was not many colours one could wear. I opted for grey from head to toe, keeping in mind that it is the cold season in Zambia so extra layers were in order. I jumped in the car and was on my way to the polling station. To be honest, I did not know where exactly the polling station was. Therefore, I had consulted a colleague who is much more familiar with the area ahead of time. In the cover of night, I did get lost, however, was guided in the right direction by fellow early risers.

Upon approaching the station, by my estimate the line was about 100 people deep. It was very orderly as it snaked round adjacent to the width of the building and then made its way along the road. In addition, to being socially distanced. I was relieved because in my mind this would not take more than 4 hours from the starting time. Sis was I wrong. The crowd was in jovial spirits as people cracked jokes when greeting one another. Ahead of me was a lady whom I later came to know as Bana Mpundu (mother of twins) and behind me were two young men in their early 20s also wearing grey hoodies. The station was pronounced open at 6am by the officer in charge and the crowd warmly received this pronouncement with a round of applause.