‘Price of democracy’: Afghans risking their lives to vote

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A policeman is on guard as volunteers carry an injured person to a hospital, following an attack that targeted a parliamentary election rally in the eastern province of Nangarhar, in Jalalabad on October 2. (AFP)
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‘I want the new parliament to bring fundamental changes to the economy, education and security so that our children can live in peace,’ 45-year-old potter Shirin Agha says. (AFP)
Updated 16 October 2018
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‘Price of democracy’: Afghans risking their lives to vote

  • Nearly nine million people have registered to vote, but far fewer are expected to turn out on polling day
  • ‘If my vote can bring these changes I will take any risk. I will either die or vote’

KABUL: From a university student to a middle-aged housewife, Afghans planning to vote in the October 20 parliamentary election say they are willing to risk their lives for democracy.
Nearly nine million people have registered to vote, but far fewer are expected to turn out on polling day due to threats of violence and expectations for massive fraud.
Six people across the war-torn country explain why their vote matters.
Out with the old and in with the new is Omaid Sharifi’s hope for the legislative election.
The 32-year-old artist, who is voting for the first time, wants to see a new generation of politicians take their seats in the next parliament.
Sharifi, co-founder of Kabul-based street art collective ArtLords, was inspired to vote by the large cohort of young, educated candidates among the more than 2,500 contesting the ballot.
“I am concerned (about security) but I think this is the price of democracy we have to pay,” he said.
First-time voter Fatima Sadeqi wants to stop criminals, thieves and corrupt people from entering the next parliament.
The 55-year-old housewife and her eight family members plan to support the same candidate in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
“We are tired of poverty and insecurity,” she said.
“I hope the new parliament is a better place, full of good people.”
Shirin Agha wants his 10 children to grow up in a peaceful Afghanistan — and he is willing to die to help make that happen.
The 45-year-old potter in the eastern city of Jalalabad is a first-time voter and plans to back “a good Muslim and an honest person.”
“I want the new parliament to bring fundamental changes to the economy, education and security so that our children can live in peace,” Agha said.
“If my vote can bring these changes I will take any risk. I will either die or vote.”
A sense of “duty and responsibility” is pushing English literature student Zahra Faramarz to vote — but she admits being “anxious” about security.
Faramarz’s polling station is located in a heavily Shiite neighborhood of Kabul where the Daesh group has carried out devastating attacks in recent months.
But the 21-year-old said it was important to vote to ensure her community has a voice in the lower house.
“If we don’t, someone else will select the candidates ... that is not good for us,” she said.
After disappointing results in the previous two elections, Ghulam Farooq Adil hopes it will be third time lucky on October 20.
The 29-year-old public servant from the western city of Herat plans to vote for an “honest” candidate who can help bring peace to Afghanistan.
“I want the new parliament to come up with a solid plan to end the war,” Adil said.
“I need to see changes, at least for the future of my son.”
Abdul Karim believes voting is a religious obligation for Muslim men and women.
“They must vote,” said the 85-year-old retiree in Kabul, who is voting for only the second time in his life.
But in return, the next parliament should “serve our nation, serve our land and provide” job opportunities for the poor, he said.
“We vote for Afghanistan and we expect our incoming MPs to make solid decisions for our nation’s well-being.”


More than 60 dead in South Africa flooding after heavy rains

Updated 14 min 12 sec ago
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More than 60 dead in South Africa flooding after heavy rains

DURBAN: At least 60 people have been killed and more than 1,000 have fled their homes after heavy rains caused flooding and mudslides along South Africa’s eastern coast, authorities said on Wednesday.
Most of the deaths were in KwaZulu-Natal province. Flooding also killed at least three people in neighboring Eastern Cape province, state broadcaster SABC said.
The rains mainly hit areas around the port city of Durban. Multiple dwellings collapsed in mudslides, said Robert McKenzie, a KwaZulu-Natal Emergency Medical Services spokesman.
Rescue workers were digging through collapsed buildings on Wednesday.
Victor da Silva, a resident of the coastal town of Amanzimtoti, said his family managed to evacuate before the floods destroyed their home and cars.
“On Monday, the water was just crazy. And yesterday morning I got here, everything was fine, my garage was still here, the other part of the house was still here, and it just couldn’t stop raining,” Da Silva said. “And then an hour and a half later, everything poof (vanished) because the rain just hasn’t stopped.
Authorities in southern Tanzania ordered evacuations of residents from low-lying areas and the closure of schools and offices ahead of landfall of Tropical Cyclone Kenneth on neighboring Mozambique’s coast on Thursday.
“We’ve decided to evacuate all residents of valleys and other low-lying areas and we advise them to seek refuge at public spaces,” Mtwara regional commissioner Gelasius Byakanwa, told reporters.
Johan Fourie said he fled his home in Amanzimtoti, Kwazulu-Natal, just before part of it collapsed.
“I nearly lost my life, and my neighbor, I believe, is in hospital,” Fourie told eNCA television.
The region had been hit by heavy rains for days, but authorities did not foresee the extent of the downpour late on Monday, said Lennox Mabaso, a spokesman for the provincial Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs department.
“As a result, there was flooding and some structures were undermined and collapsed on people,” Mabaso said.
Some people were swept away by the water, he added.
President Cyril Ramaphosa visited affected communities in KwaZulu-Natal on Wednesday and was expected in the Eastern Cape in the next few days.
“This is partly what climate change is about, that it just hits when we least expect it,” he said.
Last week, 13 people were killed during an Easter service in KwaZulu-Natal when a church wall collapsed after days of heavy rains and strong winds.