MDC president, Douglas Mwonzora, has sprang to defend underfire Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) for pegging exorbitant candidates fees for the crunch 2023 harmonised elections, describing the move as “justified.”

Gazetted last week, Statutory Instrument (SI) 144 of 2022, prescribes those aspiring to hold office of president to fork out US$20 000 payable in cash or at the prevailing official rate equivalent.

Members of Parliament (MP) contestants will now be asked to pay US$1,000, Senate and Local Authorities US$100 with the same figure paid for election observation.

In an interview with in Kwekwe at the weekend, Mwonzora said the new fees structure was necessary to decongest the ballot paper with “pretenders.” “Our ballot paper must be short considering that in 2018 we had 23 presidential candidates, and that’s a challenge. In Kenya they dealt with this issue by creating coalitions,” Mwonzora said.

The exorbitant fees, he added, would bar opportunists from contesting in future polls.

“In Zimbabwe some people think that being a candidate is a way to fundraise. Therefore, by raising aspirants fees is a way of trimming (number of) candidates.

“If you have support enough that you can be a president, party members will be able to fundraise and even raise donations and those monies for parliamentary candidates must be enough. If not it means you are wasting people’s time. This is, indeed, a good development.

“Others have said this will shut out poor candidates, but the money is not coming from individual pockets, its coming from the party. If you do not have 20 000 supporters and you want to be President for which country?” he said rhetorically.

ZEC has also moved to charge US$10 for an electronic copy of the voters’ roll with data on one polling station voters, US$15 for the ward level voters’ roll, US$50 for the constituency voters’ roll, US$150 for the provincial voters’ roll and US$200 for the national voters’ roll.