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We have commercialised our elections

Youth Development Foundation coordinator Chinoya Muyeye says financing is the biggest impediment to women participation in politics.

Muyeye says political parties should remove application fees for candidates.

“Money is the biggest impediment to women participation in politics…Application fees is actually the biggest impediment. When applying, you have to pay an application fee. Where will the rural woman going to get those exorbitant fees?” asked Chinoya. “My appeal to you political parties is that, may you quash application fees for applicants. Again, Electoral Commission of Zambia charges nomination fees! Political parties, may you kindly revisit the issue of application fees so that you level the playing field.”

Chinoya has raised a very serious issue that touches on the foundation of democracy. Democracy entails that all political conditions be leveled for citizens to participate without hindrance. This means that none of the requirements should disadvantage certain stakeholders.

We have indeed commercialised our elections in this country. The fees that Chinoya is talking about should not be there; they are discriminatory and a recipe for the promotion of an elitist electoral environment. The following are the fees that the Electoral Commission of Zambia has prescribed for participants in the August 12 General Election in different categories:

PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES

Male – K95,000.00

Female – K75,000.00

Youth – K60,000.00

Person with disability – K60,000.00

PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATES

Male – K15,000.00

Female – K13,500

Youth – K10,000

Person with disability – K10,000

MAYORAL CANDIDATES

Male – K15,000

Female – K13,500

Youth – K10,000

Person with disability – K10,000

COUNCIL CHAIRPERSON

Male – K3,500

Female – K3,000

Youth – K2,500

Person with disability – K2,500

COUNCILLORS

Male (City/Municipal) – K1,500

Female – K1,000

Youth – K1,000

Person with disability – K1,000

Male (Town/District) – K600

Female – K500

Youth – K500

Person with disability K500.

Now, who can afford these fees? In case of parliamentary and local government elections, we are talking about areas like Luwingu, Chisekesi, Sikongo, Vubwi and many others where even to access a K10 is a battle. So, where will an aspiring candidate get such money from?

In any case, why does the ECZ charge candidates for participating in an election that is fully-funded? It is on record that the ECZ is, first of all, funded by tax payers. Additionally, ECZ gets funding from cooperating partners every election year. So, why are they extorting money from candidates? What is their motivation?

We urge ECZ to revisit this issue and completely do away with nomination fees because they are not justifiable.

We risk rendering our elections as a preserve of the rich and the corrupt. These fees are certainly an impediment to our democracy. Every Zambian has a right to be a presidential, parliamentary, or local government candidate. And this should be based on their natural, and not financial abilities.

As things stand today, it is becoming increasingly clear that our elections are making our country a pseudo-democracy. An election that bars citizens on the basis of money – and an elevated education requirement, yet both education and employment are not constitutionally guaranteed as a right, is nothing but a dictatorship of a class. This must change – the status quo cannot be sustained.

A completely new system, as Ernesto Che Guevara would say, must be built over the ruins of a collapsed system for the absolute happiness of the people.

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