To avoid legal challenges, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has implemented stricter oversight procedures at the Nomination Court ahead of the December 9 by-elections.
The electoral management body faced a barrage of legal challenges after the June 21 Nomination Court processes before the August elections, resulting in some candidates being barred from participating in the elections.
This time around, ZEC was recording the exact time every nomination paper was submitted to ensure compliance with the 4 p.m. deadline.
In the last elections, some Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) candidates were dragged to court by individuals believed to be Zanu PF supporters who claimed they had filed their nomination papers after 4 p.m.
ZEC is also insisting that candidates must pay their nomination fees of US$1 000 or equivalent by 4 p.m., which is the official closing time of the court. The commission has declared that there will be no room for “extension or excuses” to avoid any legal issues.
ZEC stated that it wants the court process to run smoothly. Notably absent from the proceedings was Innocent Ncube, the provincial Bulawayo ZEC officer who presided over the previous June 21 Nomination Court and was embroiled in the subsequent challenges.
In his place was Mavis Mudiwakure, who was ZEC’s presiding officer at the National Assembly Nomination Court held in Court 5 at Tredgold Magistrates Court.
The nomination court was crowded with ZEC staffers clad in shirts emblazoned with the ZEC logo, some of whom were sitting in the court gallery. State operatives, some of whom were suspected to be from Forever Associates of Zimbabwe (FAZ), were milling outside the courtroom at Court 5.
The presiding officer emphasized that for a candidate to be successfully nominated, they must have paid the US$1 000 or equivalent and submitted their receipt to the Nomination Court officer by 4 pm.
“To candidates, only those submitting the forms are allowed to be in this room so that we give each other chances. The moment you submit your form, we either request you to sit if there’s space or you go outside. If there are any challenges, we will call you. If you are done, we will still call you back so that you come and do the payment,” Mudiwakure said.
“It is my humble request that we give each other chances to allow the process to move smoothly. If payments are not done by 4 pm, may I remind you that candidates are not going to be duly nominated.”
The presiding officer reiterated that the same rule applies to candidates who paid nomination fees via the bank as a method of payment.
“If the payment doesn’t reflect by 4 pm, you are also not going to be duly nominated. There is no room for extension or excuses. We are going to follow the court rules,” Mudiwakure said.
“No legal issues to be raised in this nomination court as we are progressing with our processes.”
Mudiwakure stressed to candidates that the nomination process is only complete when they “have brought the receipts to the nomination court officer.”
“That’s when it can be said you are duly nominated,” she said.
ZEC Chief Elections Officer, Utloile Silaigwana, who visited the Nomination Court in Bulawayo, emphasized that candidates who intend to contest “must submit their papers in time and in order.”
“As ZEC, the measure we have taken is that for every nomination paper that is submitted, we are recording the exact time that it was submitted to make sure that you can determine whether it was submitted out of time or in time,” he said.
Silaigwana said ZEC had received signatures of political parties, including CCC, but their job was not to check if they were authentic.
“By the way, our job is not to check the signatures that we receive from political parties. As long as they meet the requirements of the Nomination Court, we accept,” said Silaigwana.