By Craig Tanyanyiwa
There is an adage that says, “if you don’t vote, you can’t complain”. While arguments can be made against the premise the general idea makes some sense to a certain extent.
These past two months have been rather interesting months at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST). It’s a period I refer to as “election madness”. Where that seemingly rational classmate abandons all rationale and passionately supports whichever cause speaks to them. I have been privileged to experience five SRC election campaigns, the mudslinging, the perceived vote buying, the selling of dreams and the overall beauty of a democratic process.
As I write this I’m aware of the biases I might implicitly have and I will continuously fight the urge to air them.
This year things were done a bit differently with the presidential elections being held separately from the councillors’ election which will be held on the 20th of October 2016. I believe NUST also saw a record number of presidential hopefuls with 13 candidates battling it out.
As with every good election, controversies were bound to pop up here and there, with dates changing and some presidential candidates not making it onto the ballot, but that is a story for another day…
The apex of the campaign period was arguably the Presidential debate which was facilitated by the NUST debate society. This saw the candidates sharing their manifestos with the prospective electorate. And in true political fashion, they were delivered and received in various forms, from cheering to booing, and the occasional laugh at perceived farfetched ideas. Amidst all the drama one was left wondering if this is how this particular electorate thinks of national matters and whether people vote for the policy or vote for the individual?
Key issues that were raised were fees, accountability and security, the bus, funding for clubs and the recurring theme of the payment plan. It was quite evident that most candidates had done their homework and as such if one was to judge these policies it would be in the delivery or more of accrual- how they would carry out their promises.
Probably the sad part was that the people I met did not care enough to vote. I believe the source of the high voter apathy at NUST needs to be further examined and addressed as it could translate to national voter apathy which is not necessarily a good thing for democracy.
This voter apathy was evident on presidential election day as only 1891 votes were counted which is roughly 31,5%* of the student population at NUST. That said, Terency Shoko was able to capture 26.8% of the counted votes to be elected as the new SRC president and Dumisani Masuku was elected as the new vice president with 23,69%.
I am hopeful that ahead lies better times and encouraged by how verbal the students have become. Because of this I believe the elected officials will be held accountable for their actions.
There is still a lot to be done at the institution, like an audit of the SRC accounts, but democracy has to be celebrated wherever it prevails. So as we prepare for the councillors election let us remember the words of Gary Johnson who said:
“Regardless of who wins, an election should be a time for optimism and fresh approaches.”