Heather Charema Mashonaland West Bureau
THE Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF) has called on member states to strengthen political financing systems to ensure clean political campaigns, and credible and peaceful elections.
It also called for effective electoral disputes resolution mechanisms before, during and after elections to enhance the electoral democratic matrix within and among the SADC electorate.
This comes after the 39th Plenary Assembly Session in 2016 purposefully mandated its standing committee on democratisation, governance and human rights to develop the SADC model law on elections.
Addressing delegates during this week’s SADC PF policy dialogue on the domestication of the SADC model law on elections at Kadoma Hotel, the organisation’s executive committee member, who is also Zimbabwe’s Speaker of the National Assembly, Advocate Jacob Mudenda, said political campaigns were expensive and without proper political financing systems, political actors would resort to illicit ways of self-financing.
He outlined requirements to ensure proper funding and the removal of potential corrupt funding that would tie a politician to a donor.
“The ecosystem of political party financing is critical because political campaigns are an expensive venture as few African countries offer public financing to political parties,” he said.
“In a bid to mobilise funds, political actors sometimes resort to imprudent and illicit ways of self-financing. These include trade in illicit drugs, illegal mining of natural resources, poaching and other forms of political malpractices.
“In addition, most political parties lack corporate governance as they fail to account for private donations and membership fees that are meant to promote clean political campaigns.”
Adv Mudenda said quite often, this obtains because electoral laws were deficient in demanding party financial accountability and transparency.
“Public officials who are elected through dubious funding are often vulnerable to the donors’ whims which may point to political capture that compromises the expected quality of service delivery by the electorate at large,” he said.
“Relatedly, we have also witnessed cases of abuse of public resources through the power of incumbency which skews the playing field against the opposition parties.
“The phenomenon of incumbency is a pervasive riddle which is found in most political jurisdictions worldwide.”
Adv Mudenda said financial regulatory systems should be empowered and sufficiently resourced to prevent laundered money from entering the electoral political processes.
He said the cash-based systems and the largely unregulated mobile banking services also exacerbated the situation.
“In that regard, this policy dialogue must address the need for regulatory agencies to take decisive actions in order to level the political playing field and place stringent limits through political finance frameworks, including demanding the sources of political funding as well as party and candidate spending limits during and after the campaign trail,” said Adv Mudenda.
“On that score, Article 39 of the SADC Model Law on Elections provide some useful guidance regarding political financing regulations.
“For that reason, the strengthening of the integrity of political financing systems requires national parliaments to pass legislation to curb financial malpractices by political parties and candidates through oversight in order to ensure that mechanisms to implement such laws are instituted.”
The policy dialogue ran under the theme, “Towards credible and peaceful elections in Southern Africa: Strengthening the integrity of political financing systems and enhancing election disputes and resolution mechanisms”.