Zimbos reject political party regulation
MOST participants at a recent Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) hosted virtual public meeting to discuss the topic Political Parties Regulation – Considerations for Zimbabwe did not support political party regulation in Zimbabwe.
Instead the panelists and discussants suggested the concentration on the Electoral Reform Agenda and the full alignment of the laws to the constitution.
Participants emphasized that there is no need to come up with new legislation before we have implemented the ones we already have. Some of the recommendations proffered by participants were that Zimbabwe should deal with the problems of institutional worthiness first in order to come up with independent institutions.
Throughout the discussions there was generally a stronger case against the regulation of political parties with those who were in favour of political party regulation emphasising the need for working towards the promotion of independent regulatory bodies that would ensure the attainment of Constitutional Democracy in political parties.
The discussion topic came in the wake of Zesn’s report dubbed Compendium of Election Recommendations based on various local, regional and international Election Observer Missions’ reports on the 2018 harmonised elections in Zimbabwe.
The compendium details a total of 223 recommendations reviewing the legislative and electoral framework in line with the Constitution of Zimbabwe and regional and international principles governing the conduct of democratic elections. These recommendations are on a number of electoral related themes including the regulation of political parties.
The recommendations emphasize the need for regulation of political party activities including the need for registration of political parties, the promotion of transparency and accountability in political party financing, creating a level playing field for election campaigning and establishing sanctions for non-compliance to the laid rules.
The panelists for the Zesn virtual public meeting on Political Parties Regulation – Considerations for Zimbabwe consisted of two representatives from the major political parties, namely Paul Mangwana, the Zanu PF Secretary for Legal Affairs and Councilor, Jacob Mafume, the spokesperson for the Movement for Democratic Change – Alliance.
There was also a political analyst Brian Raftopoulous based in Cape Town South Africa, Nancy Kachingwe a Gender and Public Policy consultant, legal experts James Tsabora a lecturer from the University of Zimbabwe and Fadzai Traquino the Director of the Women and Law Southern Africa (WLSA).
Zanu PF representative Mangwana was of the opinion that political parties, like any other institutions, must exist not only according to the Constitution, but to subsidiary legislation as well.
He explained that regulation will also help in doing away with the issues of exclusion by not allowing parties that are based on religion, ethnicity and region.
He noted that the fears about political party regulation are founded on an irrational belief that regulation of political parties will lead to many cases of parties being deregistered or banned. He blamed the current challenges in the opposition to an absence of a political party regulatory framework.
MDC Alliance representative Mafume was against regulation of political parties, citing the manipulative nature of regulatory institutions in Zimbabwe. He gave an example of the media industry where he noted that regulation in that industry was used to stifle and destroy fundamental human rights.
According to Mafume, the problem in Zimbabwe is “Who regulates the regulator?” He emphasised that as long as the regulators cannot be regulated, we cannot give more to regulation in Zimbabwe.
Panelist Traquino noted that the need for regulation is not only unique to the Zimbabwean situation, as it is commonplace in other jurisdictions, including South Africa and Kenya.
Traquino was of the thinking that from a gender perspective, regulation will be able to tame the lawless jungle which has resulted in limited participation of women in political affairs. She also noted that regulation is good as it can be used to control issues of public funding for political parties, as an incentive for good behaviour and for sanctioning bad behaviour.
The panelist recommended a Registrar of Political Parties who will be appointed by Parliament and go through public interviews.
Tsabora was in support of political party regulation. In his own words, political party regulation “infuses good values of the Constitution into political parties”.
He noted that it is better to have a law in place which improves gradually than to have no law at all. Tsabora went on to propose the inclusion of provisions of coalitions and mergers of political parties, which he said are a common phenomenon in African politics.
Kachingwe blamed the political culture in the country for stifling the participation of women in politics. She highlighted that she aspires a political space that can be equated to the game of football, where rules are strictly observed.
Kachingwe called for a comprehensive Political Parties Act which will ensure equality of men and women in political participation and also uphold the constitutions of political parties.
Raftopoulous was of the opinion that although regulation is a good idea, it would not be easy to implement in a context like Zimbabwe where there is a clear conflation of the state and the party in power.
He explained that the state and the ruling party are built on violence and tend to undermine all democratic institutions established by the Supreme Law of the land, the Constitution. He castigated the state for not instilling trust in its citizens and emphasized that it would be difficult to recommend political party regulation in such a context as it will be abused.