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Monday, 26 November, 2001, 15:39 GMT
Voter apathy in rural Zambia
Dorothy Nandu  Zambian fish seller
Voters here appear to have little faith in politicians
By Penny Dale in Mporokoso, northern Zambia

Mporokoso in Zambia's Northern Province is home to about 5,000 people, and is one of the country's many remote communities.

There's no one I can trust. It's up to me and God to change my life. It's not the politicians who make the difference. They just pretend they'll do things

Fish seller Dorothy Nandu

Days after outgoing President Frederick Chiluba finally announced an election date of 27 December - right in the middle of the Christmas holiday and the rainy season, people are beginning to hear the news.

Here, even tuning into a radio station is a hit-and-miss affair so news inevitably trickles through slowly.

Mporokoso is 200 km from the nearest large town, Kasama, where daily newspapers are sold - albeit a day after publication - and people can listen to radio and television stations.

Not missed

But the road is in terrible condition, and most locals, market traders and subsistence farmers, have little reason to travel.

They remain cut off from the political goings-on in the capital, Lusaka, and many do not seem to mind.

Mporokoso has been without a MP since June, when the local one bailed out of the ruling party Movement for Multi-Party Democracy into the opposition Forum for Development and Democracy.

He is not missed much.

Dorothy Nandu, who sells fish, rice and tomatoes at Mporosoko's market, had not heard the election date had been made public, but did not care anyway.

She cannot vote because she was travelling during the registration period. Besides her faith is in God not politicians.

Voter apathy

She told BBC News Online: "There's no one I can trust. It's up to me, and God, to change my life. It's not the politicians who make the difference. They just pretend that they'll do things, but they don't."

Women in Mporokoso, northern Zambia
Women have a collection of party colours by the end of a campaign

Joseph Chindo, a 50-year-old teacher, is equally sceptical of politicians. "I've seen many summers and winters - and in that time, all the politicians have done is bulged out their tummies."

He is not even sure he'll vote. "I may wake up and vote, I may not."

Voter apathy is turning out to be a major issue in the forthcoming elections in this area.

No change

Only 55% of the eligible population is registered to vote, despite the Electoral Commission of Zambia extending the registration by five weeks earlier in the year.

Foundation for the Democratic Process, a local NGO which will monitor the 27 December polls and is providing voter education in the run-up, says that many people in the rural areas are looking for a change.

President Chiluba
The race to succeed President Chiluba is now on

But many think their vote would not make any difference.

On the other hand, Jacqueline Mukuka, a farmer in nearby Chishamwambavillage, is determined to use her vote for change.

"It's time to change the government, to eliminate suffering. We want better schooling, clinics and fertiliser. Life would be better with these things."

Political chitenge

She will be voting for the Zambia Republic Party, the only opposition party, she says, to have visited her village.

Her and her friend Florence Chileshe are wearing the chitenge material given to them by the party's campaigners - something which all the Zambian parties do, and which many villagers now demand.

Often, villagers will not listen to what the politicians have to say without getting some sort of incentive - beer or a bag of maize - and women often end up with the entire range of political chitenge.

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