It is 4am and Estere Manjomo is already on the queue at Goliati voter registration centre to register for the 2014 Tripartite Elections.
Manjomo, who comes from Katundu Village, Traditional Authority Chimaliro in Thyolo, believes that casting a ballot in next year’s elections will provide answers to her long-standing prayer for “people-centred leaders.”
The aging woman says she will be voting mainly to save God from unfair trial and judgment the creator is subjected to whenever bad leaders emerge in the country.
“We always curse God when we have bad leaders ruling the nation. But, probably, the question we should be asking is: What action have we taken to change the status quo?” she observes.
Manjomo says as a Catholic she has a critical role to play in consolidating democracy by participating in elections.
However, this is different from what a Jehovah’s Witness, Grant Nyirenda, holds.
Nyirenda, who comes from Mabamba Village, Mlumuzana Kapopo Mhlanga in Mzimba, believes anyone born of the spirit (a Christian) is holy and, therefore, free from worldly undertakings, including politics.
“Ours is the kingdom of heaven. As such, we have nothing to do with the 2014 Tripartite Elections you are talking about,” he says.
Nyirenda is not alone in this line of thinking. When Americans headed for the 2012 elections, a heated debate ensued as to whether Christians’ participation in partisan politics would dilute one’s faith.
At the heart of the confusion was and still remains Joshua 24:15, which reads: “Now if it is bad in your eyes to serve Jehovah, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve, whether the gods that your forefathers who were on the other side of the river served or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are dwelling. But as for me and my household, we shall serve Jehovah.”
Some believers have understood this verse to mean Christians are not supposed to participate in politics to avoid being in conflict with their faith, which propagates that heaven is the kingdom all believers must be longing for.
Nyirenda, for instance, says his faith does not support democracy and politicking, saying it brings disagreements, violence and disorder in a society.
But Lymon Dewe, a member of Kasukanthanga CCAP Church in Mzimba, says there is no biblical basis for shunning elections.
“Personally, I don’t think I can afford to miss elections on the basis of my religion. I believe that God is the source of democracy because he doesn’t want his people to suffer.”
National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice) Trust national programmes manager, Grey Kalindekafe, blames the tendency to stay away from elections on the basis of religion on misrepresentation and misinterpretation of the Bible.
Kalindekafe says democracy is as a result of a broader process of human development, which empowers ordinary people in many ways.
“First, democracy gives rise to emancipative values that emphasise freedom of expression and equality of opportunities among the people, which Christianity strives to achieve,” he says.
An Anglican priest, Father Hopeson Jailosi, agrees with Kalindekafe, saying religion can even be used as a vehicle for promoting clean politics in a country where politics has been portrayed as a dirty game.
“In fact, it is religion that influences good governance everywhere in the world. For instance, if you read the story of the Israelites, you get an impression that they are religious people who had nothing to do with politics or governance.
“Yet, they are the ones who pressurised Prophet Samuel to choose a leader for them. This simply shows how significant leaders are in a society, including faith groups,” said the priest.