Election season begins
Nqobile Bhebhe, [email protected]
THE country was ushered into an election season yesterday as President Mnangagwa proclaimed the road map for this year’s polls, setting August 23 as the election date and June 21 as the date for the sitting of the Nomination Court.
The dates, including October 2, the date for the holding of a Presidential run-off if it becomes necessary, are contained in a Government Gazette titled Proclamation 4 of 2023 statutory Instrument 85 of 2023.
“Now, therefore, under and by virtue of the powers vested in the President as aforesaid, I do, by this proclamation fix the 23rd day of August 2023, as the day of the election to the office of President, the election of members of the National Assembly and election of councillors, that is to say, as the day on which a poll shall be taken if a poll becomes necessary in terms of section 46(17)(c) or 125(4)(b) of the Electoral Act [Chapter 2:13] for the election to the office of President or any such members of the National Assembly or councillors,” reads part of the proclamation
“(e) fix the 2nd day of October 2023, as the day of the runoff election to the office of President, that is to say as the day on which a poll shall be taken if such a poll becomes necessary in terms of section 38(1)(a)(iii) of the Electoral Act”.
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) chief elections officer Mr Utloile Silaigwana told Chronicle that the proclamation officially starts the election period which will be followed by a number of activities such as the closure of the voter’s roll inspection two days after the proclamation.
He said anyone who registers after the two days following the proclamation will not be eligible to vote in this year’s election.
“There will be a nomination court where prospective candidates from councillors, members of parliament in the National Assembly and the Senate, and presidential candidates and the youth quota and also a quota to cater for people with disabilities.
“Once it has been done the next process is to prepare ballot papers. We cannot prepare ballot papers before candidates are known,” he said.
“Our ballot paper is defined by the photos of the candidates and once that is done, the process of printing, distribution of materials, both human and material resources.”
Mr Silaigwana said the commission will make sure there is adequate voter education and various effective platforms such as radio, television, and print media and voter educators will be deployed to disseminate information that is required.
Zanu PF Secretary for Administration, Dr Obert Mpofu said with the announcement of the election date, the party is now officially in campaign mode.
“As Zanu PF, we are excited by the proclamation of the election date by President Mnangagwa.
We had been eagerly waiting for the announcement. As Zanu PF, it’s all systems go. We are ready for the elections; we have gone through all the necessary preparations which include the selection of candidates. Our candidates have been equipped with campaign tools, so we are ready,” he said.
Dr Mpofu said the party election manifesto will soon be launched. He appealed for a peaceful campaigning period by all political parties saying it is critical for the country to show political maturity.
Senior members of the CCC including Mr Tendai Biti and party spokesperson Ms Fadzai Mahere were not picking up their phones last night while Mr David Coltart referred all questions to Ms Mahere.
MDC-T leader Mr Douglas Mwonzora said they are looking forward to the election but have reservations about nomination fees for presidential and national assembly candidates.
“We take note of the election proclamation contained in the Government gazette. As a party, we resolved during our December 2022 congress that we are fielding candidates in all contested areas. Our candidates will be known by 21 June, the day of the nomination court. Our party national council will convene next week to discuss the proclamation notice,” he said
“However, as a party, we have strong reservations about the nomination fees. We find them to be exorbitant for some political parties. For instance, a presidential candidate’s fee is pegged at US$20 000 and US$1000 for members of parliament. So a political party like ours which will field candidates in all constituencies is required to raise US$230 000 in three weeks, the amount is too much.”
Mr Itayi Muchemwa Tawona, the Director of Communication in the opposition Democratic Union of Zimbabwe (DUZ) which is led by Mr Robert Chapman welcomed the setting of the election date.
“This is a welcome development. Everyone was waiting for the proclamation. Now that the dates have been made public, we are now in election mode,” he said.
National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) leader and University of Zimbabwe law lecturer, Professor Lovemore Madhuku said the 23 August poll will now be held under the existing Electoral Act.
“The proclamation of election dates before legislators finalise amending the Electoral Act does not stop Parliament from debating and passing the law. However, what the proclamation has done is, the President has frozen the law, that is all changes that will be implemented to the law will not be applicable in this year’s polls. They will apply in the 2028 elections,” said Prof Madhuku.
He explained that there was nothing amiss with the inclusion of the runoff date in the proclamation notice.
“By law, the President is required to simultaneously announce the election date and the run-off date in case there is no candidate who gets 50 percent of the valid votes cast and above. The top two candidates in the 23 August elections automatically qualify for the run-off and the winner is required to garner 50 percent plus one vote,” explained Professor Madhuku.
Zimbabwe held its first-ever presidential run-off also known as a re-run in 2018.
Recently, President Mnangagwa indicated that foreign countries interested in coming and observing the polls would be invited.
He has also used every platform to call on Zimbabweans, regardless of political persuasion, to commit to peace and preach the message of non-violence.