UPND spokesperson Charles Kakoma says the Electoral Commission of Zambia’s revised nomination fees are still exorbitant.

On Tuesday, ECZ announced that it had revised downwards the proposed nomination fees for the 2021 general election scheduled to be held on August 11, 2021.

In a statement, ECZ public relations manager Margaret Chimanse said the commission had considered all submissions and concerns of stakeholders including other factors such as inflation, increased cost of conducting nominations and polls, among others in coming up with the nomination fees.

“Following the submissions by the Zambia Centre for Inter-Party Dialogue (ZCID), the United Party for National Development (UPND) and other Stakeholders, the Commission has revised downwards the proposed nomination fees for the 2021 General Elections that are scheduled to be held on 12th August, 2021. In considering the adjustment to the proposed nomination fees, the Commission took into account all the stakeholders submissions and concerns, as well as other factors such as inflation, increased cost of conducting nominations and polls, including the issuance of the free Voter Registers to all Presidential candidates which cost K610,000.00 per candidate,” stated Chimanse.

“The Commission, therefore, wishes to thank all Political Parties and Stakeholders for the cordial engagement and submissions regarding the proposed nomination fees. Below are the revised and Commission approved nomination fees: Presidential; male K95 000.00, female K75,000.00, youth K60,000.00 PWD candidate K60,000.00. Parliamentary male; K15,000.00, female K13,500.00, youth K10,000.00, PWD candidate K10,000.00. Mayoral; male K15,000.00, female K13,500.00, youth K10,000.00, PWD candidate K10,000.00. Council Chairperson; male K3,500.00, female K3,000.00, youth K2,500.00, PWD Candidate K2,500.00. Councillors City/Municipal; male K1,500.00, female K1,000.00, youth K1,000.00 PWD candidate K1,000.00. Councilor Town/District; male K600.00, Female K500.00 , Youth K500.00, PWD candidate K500.00.”

But in an interview, Kakoma argued that ECZ was commercialising the electoral process.

“Well, those fees are still very high, they are still prohibiting many aspiring candidates. The poverty levels in Zambia have increased, money is very difficult to find; therefore the fees must not act as a barrier to people’s participation in the election to stand as candidates. There is a worrying trend where the ECZ wants to commercialize the electoral process. They are turning the electoral process into a fundraising venture. Elections should not be about fundraising or making money to make profits. Basically, government agencies are there to provide a service and not to make money. Government is not a profit making organisation, so they should not be putting fees that make it difficult for people to participate in the electoral process,” Kakoma said.

“In fact, the whole election must be funded by the government. All the activities in the electoral process are supposed to be funded by the government. We the citizens pay taxes to government to provide the service. So, if they have a shortfall in the budget, it is up to government to find money to meet the deficit, other than passing on the cost to aspiring candidates to meet the shortfall of the government. The government knew that we are going to have elections in August 2021, they should have preserved the money for the elections other than to try and tarnish aspiring candidates to meet the shortfall. So the nomination fees should be minimal as possible to make everybody afford. The elections should not be such that only those that are rich can participate as candidates. Even poor people must be able to stand as candidates; because the leadership does not only belong to those with money even those without money can be good leaders. They must be given an opportunity to lead.”

He insisted that ECZ should have maintained the same nomination fees for 2016.

“Of course there is just the inconvenience of so many candidates but we are talking about constitutional rights of anybody who wants to be President to stand. We should not rob them by monetary terms. The old nomination fees, we only tried them in 2016, people should have gotten used to those fees so that even when they are planning to stand, they know that this is the nomination fee that I must budget for. It can’t be every general election that the nomination fees are revised; that becomes very difficult for people to plan. There is nothing wrong with the previous fees though they were high but people adapted,” said Kakoma.

And People’s Alliance for Change (PAC) president Andyford Banda said ECZ was trying to auction leadership.

“I think we are not 100 per cent happy even though we can give them a recommendation for reducing. We are not 100 per cent happy because they didn’t stick to the fees that they put in 2016. In 2016, they increased the fees for presidential from K10 000 to K75 000 and then they reduced it to K60 000. So we were hoping that they would maintain the 2016 fees because the idea is that we are not trying to auction leadership. The problem that we have in this country is because of leadership. If we are going to give a platform to people who are visionless just because they have got money, then the challenges that we have in this country will continue. We need to make sure that we do not auction democracy, we need to make sure that we give a platform to as many people as possible to aspire for leadership, not just those that have money,” said Banda.

“It is clear that the ECZ are trying to fundraise from aspiring candidates, which is not supposed to be the case. That is the reason why people pay taxes, some of those taxes must be channeled to conduct elections. It looks now the ECZ are trying to fundraise money from aspiring candidates, so that they can cover for their expenses obviously because the government is broke. We should have a situation where yes we need to pay a fee for commitment but it shouldn’t be exorbitant.”