THE Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) has submitted before the Constitutional Court that it is empowered under the laws to prescribe election fees.

It has further submitted that Radical Revolutionary Party president Vincent Chaile, who has petitioned the ConCourt over what he terms high nomination fees for this year’s general elections, cannot stop the commission from performing its statutory function of prescribing the election fee on the ground that his political right will be infringed.

ECZ has therefore asked the ConCourt to dismiss Chaile’s petition, arguing that its wrongly before the Constitutional Court and ought to have been brought before the High Court.

In this matter, Chaile has petitioned the Constitutional Court seeking a declaration that the election nomination fees announced by ECZ are null and void, and an order of injunction to restrain the commission from proceeding with the hosting or holding of the general elections until the final determination of this matter.

He also wants the court to order ECZ to pay costs of and incidental to the petition and other reliefs as the court shall deem fit.

In his petition, Chaile stated that he was set to participate in the forthcoming general elections in August this year.

He stated that that ECZ on July 16, 2020 issued a statement proposing an increment in nomination fees, adding that the commission proposed to revise upwards nomination fees for all the candidates for the forthcoming elections.

“The proposed nomination fees were as follows: (I) male presidential candidates would be required to pay K150,000 from K60,000 while female presidential candidates and persons with disabilities K120,000 from K60,000. (II) Male parliamentary candidates would be required to pay K25,000 from K7,500 while female candidates, youths and persons with disabilities were expected to pay K20,000 from K7,500. (III) For mayors, male candidates were to pay K25,000 from K7,500 with female candidates, youth and persons with disabilities paying K20,000 from K7,500, among others,” read the petition.

Chaile stated that the fees were later revised by ECZ with male presidential candidates expected to pay K95,000, females K75,000 and K60,000 for youth and persons living with disabilities.

He stated that for parliamentary male candidates, the proposed fees were K15,000, females K13,500 while the youth and persons with disabilities would be required to pay K10,000.

Chaile stated that for mayoral, the proposed fees for male candidates was K15,000, K13,500 for females and K10,000 for youth and persons with disabilities.

Chaile stated on October 8, 2020 during the conference between ECZ and political parties, another concern was raised by political party leaders as the fees were still very high and tantamount to excluding the youths and underprivileged but visionary adults from participating in politics.

He further stated that elections were not for a profit venture but a fundamental part of the democratic process in which citizens easily participate.

However, ECZ has now asked the court to dismiss the matter.

According to an affidavit in support of summons to strike out the petition and to dismiss the action filed in the Constitutional Court on March 29, this year, ECZ chief electoral officer Patrick Nshindano argued that neither the petition nor the affidavit verifying facts discloses any alleged violation of the Constitution on the part of ECZ as alleged.

He stated that it was the mandate of ECZ to prescribe nomination fees (election fees) under the Electoral Process (General) Regulations, 2016, the Electoral Process Act and the Constitution of Zambia.

Nshindano further argued that the petition and the affidavit verifying facts do not meet the requirements for actions that ought to be brought before the Constitutional Court.

“I am advised by ECZ’s advocates and I verily believe that the petition is wrongly before this honourable court for want of jurisdiction and ought to have been brought before the High Court as it alleges discrimination based on a violation of the petitioner’s political rights and or discrimination on the basis of gender as alleged,” he stated.

In its skeleton arguments, ECZ prayed that the matter be strike out and dismissed with costs.