A new legal dispute is brewing after parliament approved new nomination fees for election candidates on Wednesday. The fees are set at US$20,000 for individuals intending to run for president, up from US$1,000, and US$1,000 for parliament, up from US$50.

The Constitutional Court had ordered a review of Statutory Instrument 144 of 2022, which increased the nomination fees, ruling that the National Assembly had neglected to examine the statutory instrument to ensure its compliance with the Constitution. However, parliament’s five-member legal committee issued a report endorsing the fees, dashing the hopes of opposition parties who had called for the fees to be changed.

Speaking to journalists, ZANU PF chief whip Pupurai Togarepi said debating the PLC report would be a waste of time since election dates were already proclaimed. He said:

Whether we were going to debate about these fees, whether we were going to think we can alter them, they were not going to apply in this election. They would apply in 2028 or during primary elections. So, it was just an academic debate, wasting everybody’s time.

The opposition warned that the fees would deplete their budgets and also block aspiring candidates to reconsider contesting. Devine Mhambi Hove, leader of the opposition National Alliance of Patriotic and Democratic Republicans (NPDR), filed a lawsuit against parliament, claiming that Statutory Instrument 144, which was gazetted last year, violated section 67 of the constitution. This section outlines the political rights of Zimbabweans, including the right to run for public office and hold public office if elected. Hove argued that parliament did not consider whether the statutory instrument infringed on citizens’ rights. The Constitutional Court reviewed the case and returned the statutory instrument to parliament.

Hove’s lawyer, Prof Lovemore Madhuku, is set to file a new court application to declare the fees unconstitutional. Any legal challenge must be brought urgently as the nomination court is scheduled to sit on June 21 to register candidates for the August election.