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Election Nomination Fees Divide Parliament

By Shingirai Vambe

Harare- Last week’s Constitutional Court ruling on Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) hefty fees has divided parliament with members from the ruling ZANU PF Party and Speakers dodging the judgement given for Parliament to look into .

Wednesday and Thursday parliamentary sittings saw members of parliament spending over an hour arguing and exchanging words over the fees for citizens to participate in the upcoming elections.

Consequently two speakers of parliament have dodged the request and ruling by the ConCourt by not allowing members to debate, neither did the committee managed to sit and deliver a report on the subject matter.

Members from the ruling ZANU PF said the fees were fair and should remain.

Citizen Coalition for Change members demanded the upholding of the ruling citing the fees as exorbitant and segregative flouting the constitutional requirements for participation of citizens in the electoral processes.

According to the Electoral Act, section 47 states that, At the same time as the nomination paper is lodged in terms of section 46 there shall be deposited with the nomination officer, by or on behalf of the person nominated, such nomination fee as may be prescribed, which shall form part of the funds of the Commission.

The Act also states that the Commission shall consult the Minister responsible for local government before making regulations in terms of subsection (1) in respect of elections to which Part XVIII applies.

Harare east legislator, Tendai Biti said, the net effect of that judgement is that the Parliamentary Legal Committee must examine that Statutory Instrument from two points of view: whether it is constitutional or whether it does not infringe Section 67 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which allows free participation.

“the Constitutional Court issued a very important ruling on the legality of the Statutory Instrument in respect of which the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission levied nomination fees of at least US$1000 per member of the National Assembly and US$20 000 for a Presidential candidate”.

“I want to seek clarification from you as the head of the House whether in fact the Parliamentary Legal Committee has actually sat to determine whether that Statutory Instrument is ultra vires  the Constitution and ultra vires the Electoral Act and that PLC report must be brought to this House so that we have a final say on it.  So I need clarification Hon. Speaker Ma’am. Given the fact that the Nomination Court is sitting next week, the decision has to be made this week,” Biti said.

Acting speaker, Tatenda Mavetera made the ruling refusing the debate to take place citing the timelines given by the judgement, while members from the ruling ZANU PF party interjected and vehemently denied the debate proceed. it is however alleged that their participation fees are paid by the party.

Mkoba Member of Parliament yesterday asked Acting Speaker, William Mutomba, why they are refusing to have this matter debated in parliament, while Innocent Gonese cited and interpreted the provision given by the law.

The Legal committee later submitted a non-adverse report regarding the nomination fees and they stand as given by the Electoral Commission.

Legislators argued and said S I 144/22 was unconstitutional.

The argument by legislators on the Statutory Instrument, just like many other SIs that have been enacted without proper consultation and tabling by Parliament. However, the amount required according to the SI can be paid in Zimbabwe local currency.

“Mr. Speaker Sir, you must be aware that in this august House, I moved an amendment to the Electoral Amendment Bill in terms of a clause to the effect that nomination fees must neither be exorbitant nor inhibitive and prevent citizens of Zimbabwe from participating in the elections. The Hon. Minister accepted that amendment, I know that it is not law and it is not going to be law because of the provisions of Section 157(V) of the Constitution.  Notwithstanding that, it is not incumbent upon this august House to deliberate and pronounce upon the constitutionality of Statutory Instrument 144 of 2022,” Gonese said.

However, the law states that, No amendments may be made to the Electoral Law, or to any subsidiary legislation made under that law, unless the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has been consulted and any recommendations made by the Commission have been duly considered. After an election has been called, no change to the Electoral Law or to any other law relating to elections has effect for the purpose of that election.

Binga North Legislator, Prince Dubeko Sibanda told the Post On Sunday Newspaper that parliament has failed to represent the people and due to the fact that the ruling party pays for its candidates, it has no interest whatsoever to look into the matter.

“We suffer a constitutional crisis in Zimbabwe,” Sibanda said.

Uzumba Member of Parliament, Simbaneuta Mudarikwa told this publication that the $1000 dollars for MPs was too high because they earn US$3000 a year and if one divide the amount by 12 months, MPs will not afford  even those aspiring because of harsh economic environment, but for the Presidential candidature, even US$50000 was fine.

Women Legislators argued and said the new fees are prohibitive because women don’t have the financial muscle as compared to their male counterparts and a review or return to the 2018 fees was necessary for women participation in the coming election.

Meanwhile, Buhera South Member of Parliament, Joseph Chinotimba fired salvo during parliamentary session when members exchanged words over the nomination fees.

Chinotimba made racial remarks that made Harare North Legislator, Rusty Markham and Kariba Legislator, John Rolland Houghton emotionally leave the house.

“Munoda kutora Markham who is white muchisiya Biti who is a black man,” Chinotimba said.

“I consider that statement totally racial. You as the Speaker had no intention of calling the man to order. In this inflammatory position that we are in now, it is quite clear to me that there is no reconciliation from the Hon. Member and the party he represents. Unfortunately, he is not the first to refer to me because of my colour. I was given my skin by my parents as they were and yours. It is not that I selected it. One can almost say the God or whoever your God is gave it to you. I am sick and tired of being referred to as white.

In the Constitution, it states categorically that you cannot separate us by religion, sex, gender, you name it and yet you tolerate that. Mr. Speaker.  I would like to announce to this House that I am absolutely disgusted by the racism that comes from that side and is also endemic in my own. I take leave of this House,” Markham said.

Legislators from the Citizen Coalition for Change and some from ZANU PF expressed their anger on Chinotimba’s utterances.