By Daniel Chigundu
The four women (Thokozani Khupe, Joice Mujuru, Violet Mariyacha and Melbah Dzapasi) candidates who are vying for the Presidential post in the upcoming general election say they have no money to field a minimum of about 20 000 election agents.
According to Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), there is going to be about 10 000 polling stations across the country for the 2018 elections and generally, a candidate is expected to deploy at least two agents taking the tally to 20 000.
In previous elections, the country’s main opposition party MDC-T before the split used to face challenges when it comes to deploying election agents especially in rural areas owing to various reasons that range from intimidation and lack of resources.
Election agents are an important component in guarding against alleged vote rigging at polling stations.
Speaking at a Making Election Make Sense debate series part 6 organised by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) MDC-T faction leader Thokozani Khupe said while the security of the vote was the most important thing, the cost of deploying election agents is her current nightmare.
“My major concern and worry is the security of the vote, we need to secure the vote and it can only be secured by polling agents which we are supposed to deploy to polling stations but the cost is a nightmare.
“We need about 20 000 election agents for the 10 000 polling stations, to train these agents you need something like US$400 000 and then to deploy them across the country it costs not less than US$600 000.
“So we are looking at about US$1 million just for deployment of election agents that is a nightmare for some of who are operating from a zero budget and would like to appeal to all funders to make sure that they give us the support so that we are able to train our polling agents and at the same time deploy them,” she said.
Violet Mariyacha of the United Democratic Movement (UDM) echoed the same sentiments and appealed to the international community to lend a helping hand.
“We are facing the same challenge as others since we are not getting anything from the government because of the current Political Parties Financing Act.
“The situation is even worse because of the donor fatigue that is being experienced in the country and so we are also appealing to well-wishers and the donor community to come to our assistance,” she said.
While the Political Parties Financing Act prohibits political parties from being financed from outside the country, it, however, compels the government to only fund political parties that are represented in Parliament.
Various parties have however complained against the Act arguing that it gives Zanu PF and MDC-N and MDC-T (Chamisa) an advantage over other parties and want it repealed or revised.
Speaking at the same debate, #1980 Freedom Movement of Zimbabwe leader Melbah Dzapasi acknowledged the problem adding that while the number of polling agent might be too big and the financial requirement also too big but the with the sacrifice of her party members they can do it.
People’s Rainbow Coalition Presidential candidate Joice Mujuru said her supporters have been sustaining other party programs and meetings and she is confident they will continue to do the same on the issue of polling agents.
While the candidates are competing against each other, they are however united in calling for people to vote for a woman candidate.
There are 23 candidates fighting for the Presidency and for the first time since independence, there are four women who are trying their chances.
It is widely believed that if women are elected to high ranking posts in government, it will go on to ensure women’s issues are given priority.
Women constitute about 54 per cent of the Zimbabwean population but Parliament only has 35 percent women as legislators thanks to the temporary Proportional Representation clause which will expire in 2023.–