Well, it’s night time here in Zambia and most people are in bed (it’s a rise with the sun and got to bed early kind of place; something about not having electricity that does that to you). As usual, there are conflicting reports.
This suggests Sata will win. This suggests Banda might win. Apparently, by mid-afternoon most Lusaka businesses had closed down; this article said that people were “deserting Lusaka.” A friend of ours tried stopping at the local grocery store and even it had closed down. The American school closed early and cancelled all classes tomorrow. According to twitter (take this with a grain of salt), there are already bread and phone card shortages. Of course, there is a lot of intentional misinformation and fear being spread, I think to rally the troops.
Out here on our little plot of land (and for miles around us) it was just another day in paradise. Gardeners are at work, the Kilimanjaro Cafe runs as normal, people are burning fields. And, this is where I plan to stay until all is settled!
News swirled around all afternoon that the electoral commission would announce who won at 18.00 (that’s how they do time here — it’s all military time). Gabriel the night guard had heard that a truckload of military police had been deposited at Bauleni, so he came early to relieve Bernard so that Bernard could get home before dark. I said I’d drive him as far as I could on the back dirt roads, but it was 17.55 by then so we thought we’d wait and listen to the radio and hear who won and then go.
We stood around our fancy schmancy Bose radio and tuned in to Radio 4. Promptly at 18.00 the military police chief came on and said they would maintain control and crack down on any demonstrations. Then, the head of the electoral commission came on and said they had results in from 85 of 150 constituencies (like our precincts) Sata was ahead 43% (693,787) to Banda’s 36% (542,362). She pleaded for calm and said that they were still waiting for results from constituencies, which they then would double-check, and only when they were absolutely sure they had accurate results would they declare a winner. Then, someone else came on and said something to the effect that any inciters of protest would be arrested and prosecuted. So, threat, calm, threat.
At 19.00 the electoral commission reported that with 116 constituencies reporting, Sata had 994, 090 votes and Banda had 808, 596.
On the way home Bernard said that he knew, just knew, that Sata had won the election, but was as equally sure that Banda would be declared president. I said, well, isn’t this the pattern they expected? That Sata has the urban support and those results would come in first, but that Banda has the rural support, which is the larger population, and it takes longer for those results to come in so ultimately he would win. Bernard said he didn’t believe it and said for sure Sata won the election, everyone in his community knew who they voted for.
I think his surety in the outcome is reflected across young adults in the urban areas of Lusaka and the Copperbelt, and hence the tenseness and anxiety regarding the results. On top of this Sata seems ready for a fight and keeps suggesting that Banda’s party plans to rig the vote (see this). This is his fourth time running for office and as I’ve mentioned before, last time he lost by just 35,000 votes.
This Reuters article is the best update as of the moment I could find.
In the meantime, thought I’d share photos of the two candidates.
Here is the challenger, Michael Sata.
And, here is the incumbent, Rupiah Banda.
At almost exactly 10 pm our internet went down, and I though, ohhh, here we go. I texted a friend of mine in the middle of town and hers was down too. I tried calling the help desk for half an hour and the call went straight to busy. Another friend texted and his internet, by a different provider, was down as well. Then, miraculously, it came on again! Thank God for small favors.