Illiterate voters are a hindrance to good democratic practice in Zambia

By Given Mutinta

One does not need to be a political scientist to see that our country is at crossroads where we need to choose between more talk and plain old action to avoid political, social, and economic breakdown.

The imminent collapse is due to visionless leadership in President Michael Sata’s government.

As a result, we are now exposed to evils that include the shortage of mealie-meal, high transportation fares, intermittent supply of electricity, lack of direction in the agriculture sector, naked tribalism and nepotism, corruption, and other ills.

Even with these ills, if presidential elections were to be held today, Sata would still win the elections not because he is popular or better than any of the opposition leaders.

The truth is that more than seventy six per cent of the electorate is educationally and politically incompetent thus incapable of making wise electoral decisions.

As a result, they are easily swayed or bribed. They can easily give their vote to self-fish, visionless, and incompetent leaders over a chitenge material or a carton of chibuku.

In view of this, government, opposition parties, non-governmental organisations, faith-based organisations, foundations, and many others that work as consciences of our society must invest in the general education of the electorate.

Knowledgeable voters are necessary for wise and gratifying polls.

We cannot exclusively blame the electorate for being under informed and lacking intellectual ability. It is a long-standing feature in our society.

The electorate needs factual knowledge about politics a critical element of citizenship. This is important if citizens are to be able to discern their real interests. In addition, it is one way voters can take effective advantage of their right to vote and put good leaders in power.

In the absence of adequate information neither desire nor reason is likely to lead to choices that reflect the real interests of the public.

It is not enough to be eighteen years and eligible to vote. The right to vote is esteemed and ‘sacred’. It must be accepted and acted on in a responsible and meaningful way not only for those being voted for but for the whole nation.

Today, we have a national leadership that is not inspiring largely because of the uneducated citizens’ poorly thought out way of voting.

The uninformed way of balloting is proving to be detrimental to our country as it negates the effects of the educated citizens’ vote.


As it is now, the participation of the illiterate the likes of ‘kaponyas’ in the political process is counter-productive to our country. They are incapable of casting an intelligent vote and usually vote in general.

Therefore, it is negligence of the highest order not to invest in the education of the electorate.

In this day and age, it is unjustifiable to have more than seventy five per cent of the electorate plain incompetent to vote intelligently.

What is more bewildering is that we allow such people to vote when we have first-hand experience how they spoil the electoral decision.

In our country, education may not be fairly affordable but this is not a sound reason not to educate the electorate.

Deliberate strategies; seminars, workshops, and television and radio programmes should be developed by government, opposition parties, non-governmental organisations, faith-based organisations and foundations as a way of investing in voters who do not make the educational cut.

It may be exhaustingly demanding but it is a sure way of improving voters’ knowledge. Consequently, they will be able to vote for leaders who can influence development for all.

It makes no sense to allow the illiterate majority to vote. By doing so, we allow incompetent people to decide for the educated and the rest of the country the people to be our leaders.

As long as no investment is made in the general education of the electorate, the illiterate majority will continue to deny our nation more intelligent and industrious leaders such as Hakainde Hichilema, Charles Milupi, Nevers Mumba, and Godfrey Miyanda who would raise the quality of life for all.

If we were earnest in fostering democracy, we would put resources to good use by educating the illiterate voters, or not allowed them to vote.

It is essentially wrong to grant the illiterate with the same rights to vote as educated people. That in itself is an offence against democracy and an offence against intellect

A long time ago, Aristotle a Greek philosopher and polymath said that it is dangerous for the illiterate to be allowed to share in high decisions as their naivety may lead them into error.

It is critical that the electorate is well-informed for democracy to function well. Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States sought to avoid democracy, mainly on the basis of popular ignorance.

Zambia cannot maintain itself in strength if it cannot invest in the electorate’s general education. It is one certain way of enabling every voter to judge for him/herself what will protect or endanger his/her freedom.

Majority of the electorate in our country are ignorant of politically significant information. A democratic society requires educated electorate.

There is also need for literacy tests for the right to vote on the basis that voters totally deprived of education do not have sufficient intelligence.

As a consequence, they are unable to exercise the right to vote usefully to the whole nation.

Let us invest in the general education of the public on politics and other areas. Virtue and knowledge are the true basis on which our country must rest.

When these are missing, we cannot have freedom. The transmission of education is the only infallible means of creating these masts of freedom.

In short, an educated electorate is both indispensable and adequate to support wise voting.

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