The nomination fees for candidates have been increased by almost twentyfold, to US$20,000 for Presidential candidates and US$1,000 for constituency members of the National Assembly, while the nomination fee for party lists has been doubled to US$200 per list. Zimbabwe will go to polls in the general election next year (2023).
According to Veritus – a local constitutional watchdog organisation, on the 19th of August, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission [ZEC] published three statutory instruments, SI 143/2022, SI 144/2022, and SI 145/2022, which increased the nomination fees required to contest for elections, as well as the fees for accreditation as election observers and for obtaining copies of voters’ rolls.
The individuals who want to run for President will have to pay US$20, 000 out of their own funds, a sum that is beyond the reach of all except the very wealthy. Even the US$1,000 that candidates have to pay to be nominated for election to the National Assembly is unaffordable to most people. If the candidates are standing for a political party, they can expect their party to pay their nomination fees, but even political parties will struggle to find this money.
Any party that aspires to win a general election and forms a government has to win not only the presidency but also a majority of seats in the National Assembly and the Senate. That means the party must contest the presidency and all or most of the seats in Parliament; it should also contest seats in provincial councils and local authorities if it wants its influence to extend to local levels. The cost of doing this, in nomination fees alone, will be enormous.
Fees for Accreditation of Election Observers
Non-Zimbabwe election observers will be paying the following:
- The fees for accrediting local observers and local media practitioners have remained the same, at US$10.
- The fees for accrediting foreign observers from African countries have risen from US$20 to US$100 – a fivefold increase.
- The fees for accrediting foreign observers from non-African countries have risen from US$50 to US$300 [for embassy staff] and from US$100 to US$400 [for other foreign observers].
“There is no rational reason for the discrimination because a person can be a competent and credible election observer no matter where he or she comes from. And the cost of accrediting observers is much the same, wherever they are from. The only possible reason for the differential increases is political prejudice, and that is not a rational reason”, Vetitus observed.
Skewed Public Funding of Political Parties
According to Veritus, the public funding to political parties largely benefits the ruling ZANU-PF party which always takes the lion’s share. In 2021, Z$200 million (US$365,750) was allocated to political parties. Of this amount, Z$140 060 000 (US$256 130) representing 70%, was paid to the ruling ZANU-PF party and the remaining Z$59 940,000 (US $109,615 ) went to the MDC Alliance; nothing at all went to the CCC party. Realistically, therefore, with nomination fees at the new level, only ZANU-PF will have a hope of nominating a full slate of candidates in the next general election.
The fees operate partially and unequally between different classes of observers. There is no rational reason for distinguishing between the classes, hence the fees are grossly unreasonable according to the test we set out above. These increases will discourage electoral observation.
These upwards revisions of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) are fashioned to entrench the survival of the ZANU-PF regime by undermining the foundational democratic principle of a level playing field.