Concern over exclusion of independents

Analysts have described current constitutional provisions in Zimbabwean politics sidelining the nomination of independent candidates for senatorial posts as a ‘democratic deficit’.

The election of senators, premised on Sections 121 (1) (a) and 124 (1) (b) of the new charter was based on provincial voting results where senatorial candidates were nominated via the party list system.

Political parties provided a list of both male and female candidates at the Nomination Court for the selection of 60 senators, six coming from each of the country’s ten provinces.

In the just ended harmonised polls, Zanu (PF), the two Movement for Democratic Change formations and Zapu among others availed their best candidates for election through the proportional representation quota,

Analysts who spoke to The Zimbabwean revealed that failure to incorporate the participation of independent candidates for senatorial posts was a democratic deficiency for Zimbabwean politics.

Political scientist Shakespear Hamauswa said the constitutional provision limiting the participation of candidates affiliated to political parties reflected that adherence to democratic principles was a herculean of a task for Zimbabwe.

He described current constitutional provisions sidelining independent candidates from contesting elections for senatorial posts as a violation of the citizens’ right to political participation.

He said ‘this diminishes hope for aspiring candidates wanting to run for political office’.

“Contesting as an independent candidate in Zimbabwe is a big challenge,” he said, adding that:

“The trend is that people do not vote for specific individuals and this makes the electoral race a battle between political parties rather than individual candidates.”

He said the inclusion of the ‘clause on proportional representation buttresses the political finances act’, which also weakens the participation of ‘weaker parties and their candidates’.

Barely three days ahead of the July 31 elections, presidential aspirant, Kisinoti Mukwazhe pulled out of the election race citing ‘unequal playing field’.

Mukwazhe said failure to get financial assistance to roll out his campaign had been a barrier that had forced him to withdraw his candidature.

“The court ruled against us and we thus failed to benefit from any government assistance and financially, we are crippled. We cannot campaign contrary to the other political players who benefitted from government funding,” he said, revealing that he was now supporting Zanu (PF)’s President Robert Mugabe.

Hamauswa said the scope of Zimbabwean politicians revealed their ‘narrow and limited political views’.

“The culture in our politics asserts that individuals should be affiliated to particular parties if they are to be relevant in politics,” he said.

In its pre-election report, Civil Society Monitoring Mechanism highlighted that because there were no independent candidates for senatorial posts, 'this could be regarded as a democratic shortfall'.

MDC- T spokesperson, Douglas Mwonzora dismissed the assertion that the proportional representation clause provides a democratic deficit arguing that the majority of those that want to stand as independent candidates during elections ‘suffer from organisational deficiency’.

He said: “It is not a valid point because individualism does not move the country forward. People who cannot unite with others and who fail to identify with ideologies presented by a plethora of political parties in the country suffer from organisational deficiency.”

“The probability that those people do not have a sense of team work is very high meaning that they cannot work together with others,” he added.

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