GEARS Initiative Zambia says the structuring of nomination fees in terms of ability, gender or age by the Electoral Commission of Zambia is unfair and undermines inclusive participation.
Organisation Executive Director McDonald Chipenzi says this will increase marginalization and stigmatization of these interest groups in society as they will be looked upon by others with contempt.
Mr Chipenzi said Youth, women and persons with disabilities don’t suffer marginalization but stigmatization and such overt acts of treating them as lower class citizens who need special favour is a potential stigmatization act against them.
He said the ECZ must read the Persons with Disabilities Act No.6 of 2012 and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities which emphatically call for mainstreaming of Persons with disabilities in national affairs and not favoritism and classification.
Mr Chipenzi said the revised fees are unfair and must not be encouraged or entertained as they have detrimental effects of favoritism in the long run in the electoral process against Art 45.
He says this Art spells out the principles of an electoral system in Zambia and must be based on citizens’ free exercise of their political rights, universal adult suffrage based on the equality of the vote, fair representation of various interest groups in society and gender equity in Parliament and councils.
Mr Chipenzi said what is important is to make these fees, affordable, manageable and better still make electoral services accessible by all regardless of whether they are male, female or disabled which is key to achieving an electoral system outside favoritism.
He said the reasons being advanced by the ECZ on structuring fees according to age, gender and disability has no basis instead a realization and acknowledgement that these fees are high and beyond the reach of majority women, youth and persons with disabilities.
“Will ECZ also consider reducing fees for youth, women and persons with disabilities in rural and peri-urban areas who may be even more affected by these high fees due to limited source of income”, he said.
“Are these reduced and structured fees still for the able and wealth youth, women and persons with disabilities? For instance, the current parliament has Sebastian Kopulande and Nickson Chilangwa who are disabled and contested elections and won regardless of their abilities. Are they also catered for these reduced fees for the disabled?”, he added.
Mr Chipenzi has questioned whether the ECZ is also saying that the two MPs are marginalized and unable to raise the funds that able male aspirants would be required to raise for nominations.
“What of Chinsali Central MP, Muchinga MP Howard Kunda who are youth and the many women who are in Parliament occupying elective seats and able to pay these fees, is ECZ implying that they will not manage the fees allocated for able male candidates?”, he said.
Mr Chipenzi said his Organisation does not support stigmatization and unfair play in the electoral Process which are components of electoral injustice in the electoral process and against the spirit and intent of Art 45(2) that stresses the principles of the electoral process which among the many-that elections must be free and fair.
He said those who would be aspirants will be eyeing for the same positions with same incentives but when paying for nominations, ECZ wants to created an impression that looks like the youth, women and disabled will have and enjoy different conditions of service for those positions when elected than able male candidates. Where is fairness?
He said this is the beginning of an electoral system base on a caste system anchored on AGE, gender and abilities in the Zambian society likely to have deeper consequences in future and therefore revision of fees is inconsequential.
Mr Chipenzi said it is GEARS Initiative’s considered view that fees must be the same, manageable and user-friendly across the board regardless of one’s gender, age and ability.
He said what all candidates must be encouraged to devise is sellable manifestos that cut across gender, age and ability and not strata-ed fees.