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High nomination fees obstacle to democracy



EXORBITANT candidate registration fees have seen a sharp drop in candidates ahead of the 23 August general elections, with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) recording a 100% drop in presidential candidates, raising an outcry from opposition leaders.


 Zec has been under fire over the exorbitant fees, which civil society and political activists say are a deliberate plot to inhibit opposition participation in the election.

This week, Zec released the final list of 11 presidential candidates contesting in this year’s general election, down from 23 recorded in 2023, with many failing to raise the US$20 000 presidential candidate fees.

Ten more presidential candidates were disqualified from contesting, while the majority of political parties failed to field local government and National Assembly candidates. In August last year, Zec increased nomination fees from US$1 000 to US$20 000 per presidential candidate; US$50 to US$1 000 per National Assembly candidate, while those eyeing senatorial and council seats must fork out US$100.

The grossly unreasonable fees would see a party fork out US$238 000 to field a full slate of candidates in a general election. Zec also pegged voters’ roll access fees at US$10 for each polling station; US$15 for the ward level voters’ roll; US$50 for the constituency voters’ roll; US$150 for the provincial voters’ roll; US$200 for the national voters’ roll; US$1 per page for the physical copy.

This week, Labour, Economists and African Democrats (Lead) President Linda Masarira filed a High Court application seeking reversal of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s (Zec) US$20 000 nomination fee for presidential candidates. Masarira failed to pay the required amount on time. Several political parties have failed to field presidential, parliamentary candidates.

This week, Democratic Union of Zimbabwe (DUZ) leader Robert Chapman pulled out of the electoral race, mainly due to the exorbitant fees.

“After a great discussion with the DUZ top leadership, advisory and friends, including the circulation of Bulawayo province, the party president reached the decision to withdraw the presidential candidate citing key reasons: “The political financial constraints on the president and the party against the required Zec fees to contest in the country. If a party contests all seats, it would cost US$250 000, and that is before the campaign. This has a chilling effect on democracy.

“Presidential elect Robert Chapman for the DUZ has withdrawn from the 2023 Zimbabwe Harmonised Elections, however will support the House of Assembly and local council DUZ candidates nominated successfully on June 21 2023,” said Pishai Muchauraya, DUZ secretary-general in a statement this week.

 The opposition Zapu is not also fielding a presidential candidate, and says it would rather channel the funds to the National Assembly.

“We will not, however, deploy a presidential candidate this year, owing to the participation fees charged by Zec. While our members insisted that we deploy our president, the leadership collective felt that it was unwise to spend the little resources from our members contributions on nomination fees for one candidate when that money could be spread between 20 National House of Assembly candidates,” said Zapu in a statement this week.

“In that vein, we are deploying (subject to the nomination process), a total of 29 members of Parliament throughout the country, with the highest coming from Mat South province. We are further deploying 178 councillors throughout the country and a representation in 9 out of 10 provinces in the country. In constituencies where Zapu is not fielding candidates, we call on all our members, sup[1]porters and registered voters to rally behind like-minded progressive forces pursuing reform and change.

“The party therefore urges our members and all registered voters to use their conscience to choose from the available candidates, a president who has no history of mass murder, corruption and failed promises to lead our beloved nation for the next five years.”

Parliament has been accused of doing a shoddy job which saw the fees being approved by the National Assembly.

In March this year, Divine Hove, the leader of an outfit called the Nationalists Alliance Party and a former presidential candidate, applied to the Constitutional Court for an order setting aside the statutory instrument on the ground that Parliament through the Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC) had failed to comply with its constitutional obligation to examine and consider SI 144/2022.

 He argued that no reasonable Parliament could have failed to realise that the new fees were manifestly unconstitutional; hence Parliament had either not examined the SI at all or had adopted an unduly casual or lackadaisical approach to its examination. Legal grouping Veritas has also dismissed the fees as unconstitutional.

“They were enacted for an improper purpose, i.e. to prevent or discourage people from standing for election and also to discourage opposition parties which had not benefited from state financing from putting up candidates. “They were unconstitutional, in that they were inimical to multi-party democracy and inhibited the fundamental rights of citizens to stand for election [guaranteed by section 67 of the constitution],” Veritas said.

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