Public Service in Africa: Voting Rights and Political Participation

by Jaime Vaz

It has been said that whoever walks with the devil has sold his soul —  this saying seems to be a harsh reality among public workers in most African developing countries. Being a public worker in these countries seems to be one of the best means for income generation and financial security — but often at a cost, as it also means having to toe the party line.  

In order to have access to career development, the employee typically has to show a certain partisan color and must exhaustively participate in all meetings concerning a particular party coalition. What is worrying is that these party meetings often have direct implications for the work environment and, consequently, can weigh on the classification of employees. This begs the question: do such public workers consider themselves free? Free, despite the fact that in many other countries’ constitutions there is freedom of party choice? Given the phenomenon that these workers experience, is there an opportunity for them to feel free? Certainly the answer is no: how could someone feel free when doing something that was not of their own free will? The choice of a party color should stem from the libertarian principle of free choice; a choice according to the party’s ideals and the individual’s identification with these ideals. If the choice of affiliation to a political party is not made freely and by spontaneous will, then there is no freedom.

The prevalence of electoral fraud in developing countries is often associated with civil servants, since most polling stations are located in state establishments. With increased reports of such alleged fraud, public servants have come under suspicion due to the large number who must vote at polling stations located on state grounds such as schools and health centers. This has led to a perception that civil service workers may be taking advantage of their access to commit fraudulent activities. While such allegations are often false, another prism of analysis can be used here. Is there any need for public servants to exercise their civic duty in their workplace? I assert that there is no need for this to occur.

Everyone has an inherent right to choose their own destiny and act freely. Respect is essential in order for individuals to feel safe exploring the world around them without fear of interference or oppression from others. By reminding us that freedom is inherent in every human being, Rothbard encourages autonomy while underscoring the importance of mutual respect among all those who strive towards freedom. To give public servants the freedom to make their own choices, from party colors and voting locations to who they decide to support with their vote, freedom must become an attainable reality. Democracy should not be approached as something utopian – it is an essential right that citizens of all nations share equally: the right to choose freely and openly without fear or judgment.

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