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File pic: Priscilla Chigumba, ZEC Chairperson during the 2018 elections

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Zec should reduce new fees for candidate nomination: Women

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LOCAL young women, who represent the majority of potential voters, say the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) must consult the electorate and reduce its nomination fees for candidates in next year’s general elections to avoid disenfranchising citizens.

In a paper titled Policy Commentary: Statutory Instruments (SIs) 144 and 145 of 2022 a Threat to Young Women, Men and Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) Participation in Electoral Processes, the Institute for Young Women’s Development (IYWD) says it is seriously concerned with the new fees for the noination process.

“The Institute for Young Women’s Development (IYWD) notes with grave concern, the appalling hiking of nomination fees for prospective election candidates, coupled with increased fees for accessing the voters’ roll and the attendant polling area, ward, and constituency, provincial and national maps through a basket of Statutory Instruments gazetted on 19 August 2022,” the young women’s group says.

“The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the responsible Minister of Legal and Parliamentary Affairs must, in consultation with citizens, stakeholders, effect a downward revision of the gazetted nomination and access to the voters’ roll and electoral maps fees and ensure that any set amounts are affordable, gender, youth and disability sensitive.

“The Parliament of Zimbabwe must ensure that adequate funds are appropriated to the ZEC and in a way that totally removes or ensures that prospective candidates pay a minimal affordable fee.

“The urgent alignment of all electoral laws to the country’s constitution to include enactment of a Gender Equality Act which shall provide for equal representation in local government, parliament and the presidium in line with sections 17, 20, 56 and 80 of the constitution.”

IYWD is a movement of young women from rural and mining communities committed to mobilising and strengthening people’s voice and power to challenge oppressive systems to lead a life of their choice.

In terms of Statutory Instrument (SI) 144 of 2022, Zec, with the approval of Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, hiked the nomination fees required for both the presidential and constituency member of Parliament (MP) candidates by a record high 1 900%, from US$1 000 to US$20 000 and US$50 to US$1 000 respectively.

The cost of accessing an electronic copy of a polling area, national and hard copy voters’ roll went up by 900% from US$1, US$20 and US$0.10 per page to US$10, US$200 and US$1 per page respectively.

For the ward and constituency voters’ rolls, the cost has jumped upwards by 650% and 450%, from US$2 and US$10 to US$15 and US$50 respectively, while accessing a provincial voters’ roll now requires a payment of US$150.

Getting polling area, ward and constituency electoral maps shot upwards by 1 900%, 1 150% and 200% from US$1 to US$20, US$2 to US$25 and US$10 to US$30 respectively, while the provincial and national maps now require US$60 and US$100 respectively.

IYWD, in consultation with its regional sister partners and individual activists, surveyed nomination fees in peer African countries for council, parliament and presidency elective positions or equivalent for comparative analysis.

The data collected includes nomination fees applied in latest elections and legal provisions on nomination fees. All data was converted to United States dollars for uniformity and comparability, at the latest prevailing exchange rates.

Zimbabwe ranks highest in terms of nomination fees required for one to stand as a candidate for the position of president. It is almost four times that of Zambia, which is the second highest and is almost 10 times that of Kenya, which is the third highest, a position which shows that the local gazetted nomination fees are well beyond average, especially given that the Zambian and Kenyan economies are performing far much better.

Worth noting is the progressive scale of the nomination fees for Zambia, Kenya and Malawi which are youth-, disability- and gender-sensitive compared to their peers despite those of Zambia still remaining in the high end.

Namibia’s nomination fees penalise those who choose to stand as independent candidates by levying a higher amount compared to a political party.

ESwatini, Angola, Mozambique, South Africa and Botswana do not require nomination fees for the presidency due to the nature of their electoral systems which allows for election of the president from parliament and/or requires endorsement by a huge number of nominees for one to qualify as a candidate.

Zimbabwe also ranks high in terms of the required nomination fees for one to stand for MP, followed by Zambia with a marginal difference, Malawi, Kenya, Botswana and South Africa.

ESwatini, Angola and Mozambique do not require nomination fees for the constituency MP due to the nature of their electoral systems which allow for election of the president from parliament and/or require endorsement by a huge number of nominees for one to qualify as a candidate.

Zambia, Malawi and Kenya provide gender-, youth- and disability-sensitive nomination fees even though Zambia and Malawi have relatively higher fees compared to Botswana and South Africa.

South Africa ranks high in terms of nomination fees for local government elections, followed by Zambia, Kenya, Malawi, Botswana and countries which do not require a nomination fee, to include Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe’s position on this is progressive and if adopted for the presidency, constituency MP and proportional representation seats will be a huge milestone in entrenching constitutional democracy and promoting participation of all, without leaving anyone behind on any aspect.

“The prevailing and deteriorating economic situation in the country, characterised by currency woes, paltry remuneration for those working, inflation and high levels of unemployment among others, places the gazetted nomination, voters’ roll and map access fees beyond the reach of the majority, especially young women, men, women and people living with disabilities who are already largely excluded from accessing, owning and controlling economic resources,” the young women said.

“Increasing the cost of participation may only yield apathy, resistance and has potential to escalate the already alarming levels of corruption and capture of policymakers and state institutions by the few elite capitalists at the expense of the general populace.

“From a political economy point of view, the purpose of taxation, which is very high in Zimbabwe is to generate revenue for use by the government, reprice products with a negative bearing on the society, redistribute wealth in a way that ensures young women, men, women and PWDs among other citizens have access to decent socio-economic and political services and ensure their representation by granting them the right to elect their representatives and be elected, as enshrined in section 67 of the constitution.

“Zimbabweans are already directly and indirectly contributing to the financial well-being of the country through the different taxes levied by the government and it is such funding which should be utilised to significantly subsidise electoral processes.”

The young women said they take note of utterances by some electoral officials justifying the gazetted astronomical nomination fees as a measure by which candidates for election show commitment, they would like to categorically say any regulation which excludes vulnerable groups, including young women, men, women and PWDs, among others, from fully exercising their political rights as enshrined in the country’s constitution under section 67, is retrogressive.

“It erodes democracy, given that the process involved in electing and being elected is equally important as the outcome of an election when it comes to assessing whether elections are free, fair and credible,” the young women say.

“Zimbabwe is a constitutional and representative democracy, governed by the constitution with elected public office officials representing the needs and aspirations of the electorate.

“Section 3 of the country’s constitution, founding values and principles, embraces gender equality, an electoral system based on universal adult suffrage and equality of votes, free, fair and regular elections and adequate representation of the electorate and recognition of the rights of vulnerable groups to include young women, men, women and PWDs, among others.

“It is impossible to fulfil the aforementioned values and principles if the requirements for one to exercise their rights effectively takes that right away.”

The women add: “Section 2 of the country’s constitution provides for supremacy of the constitution and renders void any law, practice, custom and conduct inconsistent with it, to the extent of the inconsistency.

“Therefore, setting nomination fees which may only be afforded by people in certain social classes and of a sound economic status grossly violates section 56 of the country’s constitution, which enshrines the right to equality and non-discrimination and is thus constitutionally void.” – Staff Writer.

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