INDEPENDENT electoral watchdog, Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) , says the Political Parties Finances Act should be amended from a proportional model to a hybrid model, to ensure equitable distribution of funding for political parties to enhance democracy.
BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
Under the current Political Parties Finance Act, any political party that secures at least 5% of the total votes cast is entitled to receive funding from Treasury.
Zesn said the system should be reviewed to allow new political parties to benefit to ensure a level playing field. Zesn said it had noted that candidates representing smaller political parties that participated in the Nkulumane by-election last month struggled to fund their campaigns.
“Zesn observed that campaigns for the RDZ (Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe) and PDZ (Progressive Democrats of Zimbabwe) candidates were affected by limited resources, whereas Zanu PF campaigns were robust owing to the party and candidates’ access to significantly larger amounts of resources,” the watchdog said in its Nkulumane by-election report.
“For instance, Zanu PF held a launch rally and consecutive meetings with high-profile Zanu PF leadership in attendance.
“This contributed to the creation of an uneven playing field, as other parties could not compete on an equal footing resulting in the by-election being poorly contested, as contesting parties were not able to mount effective election campaigns.”
Zanu PF’s Killian Sibanda won the by-election that was marred by voter apathy, garnering 2 161 votes. Ngwalo Nyathi of RDZ came a distant second with 680 votes and Sibusisiwe Mpofu of PDZ had 397 out of more than 30 000 registered voters.
“The need to review the current system of regulating party finances cannot be over-emphasised. There is need for sustained discussion among electoral stakeholders on the appropriate mechanisms for political party financing that can help new entrants in politics to establish themselves,” Zesn said.
“The new system should require appropriate disclosure, limits on expenditure and effective monitoring of party campaign finances. Democracy only thrives when the playing field for political actors and political parties, is level and when elections are genuinely contested. Such a discussion is timely and relevant in light of the numerous anomalies.”