Hefty fees deter aspiring candidates from filing nomination papers

Over 20 aspiring parliamentary candidates in Bulawayo failed to pay the US$1 000 nomination fees.

At the same time, opposition party leaders were forced to run for parliamentary seats as they failed to raise the US$20 000 required to run for the presidency.

This situation was also witnessed in other parts of the country where candidates failed to successfully file their nomination papers due to financial challenges.

After clearing their nomination papers and receiving permission to proceed to pay the fees, the candidates would leave the forms, claiming they would return with money but failed to do so until the Nomination Court closed.

During proceedings at the Nomination Court on Monday at Tredgold Magistrate Court, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) Bulawayo Provincial Elections Presiding Officer, Innocent Ncube revealed that over 20 candidates had left their forms to go ‘hunt’ for nomination money, as he continued calling out to them.

“You people and stories, just pay and go but you come here with stories,” he said, urging the hopefuls to pay before the deadline.

The nomination fees were challenged legally but the High Court ruled the matter was not urgent and will look into the case after the elections on August 23, 2023, while a constitutional judgment requiring Parliament’s Legal Committee to review the exorbitant fees was ignored, as the committee approved them.

ZEC gazetted Statutory Instrument (SI) 144 of 2022 in August, which required aspiring presidential candidates to pay US$20,000 to compete in the presidential elections, while aspiring legislators will pay a candidate fee of US$1,000 and aspiring candidates for local authority elections will pay US$200. 

In an interview with CITE, United Freedom Party (UFP) leader Godwin Zivavose said he ended up opting to run for the Lobengula-Magwegwe constituency seat, as he could not afford to run for the presidency.

“We are also a small party and still starting. We are struggling financially to mobilise people that’s why we failed to field a presidential candidate. We also wanted to have many MPs but could not because of the fees,” he said.

“People have no money in Zimbabwe. There are no jobs, people can’t pay US$1 000. It seems the leadership is now for the rich while the poor remain poorer.”

Zivavose urged authorities to consider the marginalised when pegging costs for civic processes and added his party would support the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), presidential candidate, Nelson Chamisa.

Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP)’s candidate for Lobengula-Magwewe, Lwazi Khanye, slammed ZEC for its exorbitant nomination fees, stating the exchange rate and amount of money required in local currency were ludicrous.

“Before the Nomination Court, ZEC said the equivalent of the US$1 000 was ZWL$2.5 million, today we are told because of the rate it is now over ZWL$7 million,” he said, as he was forced to run around and raise the extra ZWL$5 million. 

MDC-T was also forced to issue a communique to party parliamentary candidates advising them to leave their forms at ZEC offices and disperse.

“Further communication will be issued regarding the legal status of their nomination papers in view of non-payment. Any inconvenience suffered is most sincerely regretted,” said its Secretary General, Tapiwa Mashakada   

A female candidate contesting for Mpopoma -Mzilikazi, Sihle Muzenda from Freedom Alliance said she had to save funds even since the gazetting was announced last year.

“I prepared for this and did not jump into it. I learnt of the fees when I researched the participation fees and learnt of the gazetting. Every time I had money, I would put some aside although I thought the fees would be reduced,” she said, lamenting that, due to the expenses, party leader Dr Samukele Hadebe will not be running for president.

ZAPU also declared that party leader, Sibangilizwe Nkomo, would not field a presidential candidate because “it would be unwise to spend all resources from members’ contributions on nomination fees for one candidate.” 

ZAPU said it would rather share the US$20 000 between its 20 candidates and was filing a total of 29 parliamentary candidates throughout the country, the highest coming from Matabeleland South.

“Vote for another opposition leader who has no history of mass murder, corruption and failed promises,” said ZAPU national spokesperson, Msongelwa Ndlovu.

On the other hand, Finance Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube, who is running for Cowdray Park as a Zanu PF candidate, claimed the fees were appropriately set.

“Tthe Nomination fees have been set at the right level, for me, I would have preferred if they were higher actually because there is no way you can claim you can represent the people of Zimbabwe if you can’t afford US$1 000 for MP. It’s not unacceptable,” he said.

“Do you want to accept an MP, who can’t uplift themselves, doesn’t have a US$1 000 and that’s your representative. I don’t think that’s right.  The nomination fees are not an issue, in my view you should prove yourself that you are worth your salt. I don’t think they are high at all.”

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