By BLESSINGS MASHAYA
ZIMBABWEAN authorities insist that there is nothing amiss about the proposed high fees that presidential and legislative hopefuls will be charged to take part in the crunch 2023 national elections, saying “democracy comes at a cost”.
Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, amid opposition unhappiness about the new cost of participating in polls, the spokesperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), Jasper Mangwana, said the fees reflected the seriousness that was attached to both the office of the president and MPs.
“In some countries, there is registration and regulation of political parties. This process ensures that only committed parties and candidates are given the party status after being compliant.
“Even when they submit candidates, they would have been evaluated. That’s why Kenya had four presidential candidates only.
“Those vying for public office must show their commitment, as the integrity of our electoral processes is not independent of the integrity of the candidates. This is best practice around the world,” Mangwana said.
Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi also said the proposed new fees reflected the seriousness that was attached to important political positions.
“Democracy comes with a cost. If you cannot put your money to the office that you are contesting for it means that you are not taking that office seriously.
“The new figures will attract serious participants. The presidential post, for example, needs serious people and not time wasters. The presidential post is certainly not for time wasters,” he told the Daily News.
This comes in the wake of the new nomination fees for presidential, parliamentary and council aspirants, as well as fees for inspecting the voter’s roll — which are set to be approved by Parliament.
“The Statutory Instrument (containing suggested nomination fees) will be approved by Parliament.
“So, they (opposition) can go there and raise their issues and say what Zec proposed we feel it’s unreasonable … if the Parliamentary legal committee considers that it can be debated in the House. This is not the end of the story,” Ziyambi added.
But Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere said the fees were outrageous and unfair.
“Minimum wage for a domestic worker is barely US$100. No civil servant earns in USD, yet they have the gall to introduce election participation fees of between US$1 000 — US$20 000.
“What justification is there for this daylight robbery? Why do you want to shut citizens out? Electoral participation is not a luxury. It’s a constitutional right.
“It can make the difference between whether or not a community has a functional clinic, affordable education or food on the table. It can’t be an elite, anti-poor & anti-people charade,” Mahere said.
All this comes after Zec revised participation fees for presidential and parliamentary hopefuls at the weekend.
Presidential hopefuls will now be required to pay US$ 20 000, from US$ 1000 that was charged in 2018.
This was contained in the Government Gazette published on Friday, which also announced a raft of new fees, including for aspiring MPs — who are now required to pay US$1 000, a significant hike from the US$50 that was previously charged.
“It is hereby notified that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, in terms of section 192 of the Electoral Act [Chapter 2:13] has, with the approval of the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, made the following regulations.
“These regulations may be cited as the Electoral (Nomination of Candidates) (Amendment) Regulations, 2022 (No. 1).
“The Electoral (Nomination of Candidates) Regulations, 2014, published in Statutory Instrument 153 of 2014, is amended in section 3 in (a) subsection (1)(a) by the deletion of a sum of one thousand United States dollars payable in cash or by bank certified cheque’ and the substitution of ‘a sum of twenty thousand United States dollars payable in cash or payable in Zimbabwean local currency at the official market rate’.
“By the deletion of a sum of fifty United States dollars and the substitution of a sum of one thousand United States dollars or payable in Zimbabwean local currency at the official market rate,” the Gazette read.
Aspiring senators and councillors will also now be required to pay US$100.
The fees for accessing electronic voters roll and other versions of the voters registered have also been increased. The cost of an electronic copy of the voters’ roll will be US$200 — from the previous US$20.
“A hard copy of a monochrome copy of the voters’ roll shall be one United States dollars per page of the national voters roll, a polling station voters’ roll, a ward voters’ roll or a constituency voters’ roll, whichever one is sought,” it was also announced.
However, it is the steep hike in the nomination fees for presidential candidates that is particularly likely to thwart a number of hopefuls — most of whom are little known and have almost zero gravitas.
In 2018, a record 23 candidates contested the presidential poll, leaving many commentators to say there was a need for the revision of the law to allow “only candidates with impeccable” profiles to contest.
In June this year, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Jacob Mudenda, appeared to back this during a workshop on electoral reforms when he said that only serious political parties needed to contest polls.
“However, it is critical that the electoral law addresses the tendency of a plethora of political parties soon after the presidential proclamation to hold harmonised general elections.
“In 2018, 133 political parties sprouted like summer mushrooms to contest in the elections. This spectre is uncommon in the electoral world.
“Our electoral law must guard against such political misadventure which is likely to abuse the unsuspecting electorate,” Mudenda said then.
“The electoral law should insist on bona fide parties that have authentic credentials and have at least been founded six months before the election date.
“What more of the 23 candidates who aspired to contest for the presidential office in 2018!
Surely this high office demands candidates of serious conviction and stature and not the trial-and-error opportunists.
“The envisaged electoral law should address this political leadership lacuna among the presidential aspirants.
“Such screening process would ensure that the Zec allocated funding will not be unnecessarily crowded out,” Mudenda added. – Daily News