I’m Eager to Cast My Vote for the Benefit of Tanzania, Yet Realities Pose a Puzzle…


Supporters of John Magufuli celebrate after he was declared the winner of Tanzania’s presidential election. Photograph: Emmanuel Herman/Reuters

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Today, while on my morning commute, I listened to Katt Williams (American Comedian) getting interviewed by Shannon Sharpe. Katt’s candidness and straightforwardness led me to listen to the 2-hour interview. That is huge with our recent attention span. A very tiny snippet of the conversation concerned the polarized nature of American politics, the two-party system, and how people like to vote, and that got me thinking.

America has always been the face of democracy, a system we, the younger generation, were born into. For most of us, we do not know of any other method. Our education has always been organized to highlight democracy as the best system, surpassing all the political systems we had before. But well, I have a lot of questions about that.

Honestly, I have always felt inadequate to ask or comment on anything political. My saying was, “Mimi na siasa wapi na wapi?”. Basically what has politics got to do with me? I never wanted to lead anyone or be a part of any political party; I have never voted and never felt the need to be a part of any political discourse.

I know I am not alone. However, as I get older, I find it difficult to stay impartial; I am learning that the systems we live under are not divine; they are artificial. With this, I am responsible for being a part of the conversation.

Democracy is a government of the people, by and for the people. Do you remember this definition? We sang it, wrote it in exams, and memorized it; it was catchy. But did I understand how it applies? Well, I just recently understood the difference between a republic and a democracy, hence why I chose The Democratic Republic of Tanzania.

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In the same light, I also understood that the U.S. is best described as a democracy and republic. Norway has been described as having the best democracy, and its people highlight that no select elites are leading the country, no one is left out, and leaders do it because they genuinely care. It sounds too idealistic, but that’s the public’s view of their democracy. Would I say I feel the same way about the political environment in my country?

Democracy makes it sound that the power is on the people, ordinary people. But, when I explore these three key power indicators (Who benefits, governs, and wins), I do not believe so. Well, does my belief matter? I think in political structures, it does. My personal experience is that most people choose not to vote because they do not believe their vote matters.

Some choose to vote but see no viable option and hence go for the least worst alternative. Doesn’t this highlight a fallacy of choice? Legitimacy is such a crucial concept in ensuring stability in a socio-political system. In the past, the divine birthright of kings was used to legitimize the techniques used.

In most democracies, the will of the people makes the system legitimate. This is because the consent of the governed legitimizes the people in power since we essentially gave them the power. This is why I think for a stable democracy, people need to feel like their voice matters and their vote counts.

But, with most countries only having two major political parties, is that representative? Also, why is it that however many parties are in a country, there are always two holding the majority votes in most cases? If I, for example, feel my needs are not aligned with the two, it feels like a waste to even vote for a minority party, and so I am forced to choose between majority parties.

This is another reason people do not vote, leaving you with limited choices. I also remember the role of a republic to ensure I am represented even as a minority. Then, would that mean that the most important thing for me should be ensuring I participate in voting for my representatives? But, in a two-party system, the party representative dictates how their vision aligns with mine. Am I wrong?

READ RELATED: The 2024 Local Government Elections as a Precursor to the 2025 General Elections: What Can We Expect?

So, Why Have I Never Voted?

So, firstly, I never felt like my vote mattered. I mentioned the two-party systems, right? Even though the two parties seem to be serving the exact cause, it is dramatized in the media to make it seem like there is a political debate. Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere once said, “The United States is also a one-party state, but, with typical American extravagance, they have two of them.”

To me, this highlights the illusion of political debate and rivalry. I say this because things are still the same regardless of which political party is in power. As much as we vote, the systems for control and who holds power, especially in a capitalist society, are still the same, in my opinion.

So, does my vote matter? I want my vote to not only bring someone or a political party in office, I want it to represent the future I hope we build.

Enough with the theories. It’s time to confront reality. Regardless of my personal beliefs, politics isn’t just an abstract concept—it’s a force that directly shapes my life, and I recognize the urgency of my participation. Our system isn’t self-sustaining; it needs us, the people, to participate actively. Voting isn’t just a civic duty; it’s the cornerstone that legitimizes and stabilizes our democratic framework.

A recent conversation with a politically inclined friend delved into the effectiveness of local government elections in Tanzania. Do people even care? Do people vote? His insights were eye-opening. He emphasized the original purpose of local government authorities – to wield the power to instigate meaningful change and, fundamentally, to decentralize the system.

Imagine a scenario where our votes directly impact local decisions, where we’re actively involved in shaping budgets and priorities. Picture knowing that the road on your street isn’t overlooked because we focus on constructing a much-needed hospital for the next three years. This isn’t theoretical; it’s a tangible connection between our civic participation and the immediate benefits or challenges we experience.

I do not want to fight on ideas, on how one party is slightly better than the other. The real fight, I believe, is for a community that collaboratively works towards tangible improvements that each of us can directly enjoy. I don’t want to be a passive observer, just voicing my opinions, casting my vote, and idly listening to political debates.

Instead, I crave active involvement on a small scale – participation in local decisions that echo the true spirit of democracy. It calls for democracy to transcend the mere act of voting, surpassing considerations of party numbers or who holds power. I want to be intricately involved, actively contributing, and experiencing firsthand the benefits of a system that, in return, benefits me.

This is the democracy I yearn for—one where participation isn’t just a civic duty but a dynamic engagement that ensures everyone reaps the rewards of their involvement.

Also read Nape Suggests Electronic Voting for Tanzania: Discover the Basics Here.

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