The main purpose of regulating political party and campaign finance is to ensure transparency in how political parties and election campaigns raise and spend money,1 stop corrupt practices, 2 limit the impact of money on the electoral process,3 and counteract abuse of public resources. 4 Situation in Zimbabwe Political finance in Zimbabwe is governed by the Political Parties Finance Act. The act, amongst other things, regulates permitted (citizens, permanent residents, companies, and associations) and prohibited (all others) sources of funding. This is consistent with the approach internationally, as more than 95 percent of countries place certain limitations on who can make financial contributions to political parties and election campaigns, and in some cases how much they can contribute or how much political parties and election campaigns can spend.5 Public funding is available to political parties that reach over 5 percent of the vote in the preceding general election, similarly to provisions in other African countries. Globally, about two out of three countries also provide public, or state, funding to political parties.
However, in Zimbabwe, there are no spending limits, no compulsory requirement to report contributions and spending, and no requirement to publish financial reports. Moreover, there is no institution that has a 1 United Nations Convention Against Corruption Article 7.3, African Union Convention on Combatting and Preventing Corruption Article 10.2, SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections (2015) Article 13.2.6.f. 2 African Union Convention on Combatting and Preventing Corruption Article 10.1. 3 SADC Parliamentary Forum, Norms and Standards for Elections in the SARC Region, Part 3, Article 6. 4 SADC Parliamentary Forum, Norms and Standards for Elections in the SARC Region, Part 2, Article 3. 5 Calculated from https://www.idea.int/ datatools/data/political-finance-database. Unless otherwise noted, statistics regarding regulations in this document are calculated from this source. mandate to oversee political finance regulations. In comparison, globally, more than 90 percent of countries require financial reporting by political parties, candidates, or both.
All political finance regulations require enforcement to be effective. Both the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and the African Union Convention on Combatting and Preventing Corruption (AUCC) highlight the importance of transparency in political finance. In comparison to Kenya, Sierra Leone and Germany, for example, the current political finance regulations in Zimbabwe give insufficient focus to transparency. Given the above, during the 2018 harmonized elections in Zimbabwe, international observers concluded that “there is a complete lack of reporting requirements and transparency mechanisms undermining the ability of candidates to campaign on a level playing field,” and recommended that the authorities should “develop regulation of political party financing to promote accountability and transparency and as a key step towards creating a level playing field between political parties.”6 Transparency International suggests that legislation should be passed, including at a minimum:7 6 European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) Final Report, https://eeas.europa.eu/ sites/eeas/files/eu_eom_zimbabwe_2018_-_final_ report.pdf page 23 and 3. 7 See https://www.transparency.org/whatwedo/ • Annual reporting requirements for registered political parties on income, spending, assets, and liabilities; • Post-election reporting requirements for political parties and candidates (in cases where reporting is required by nominating political parties only, it should include information on their candidates’ campaign finances) on incomes, spending, assets, and liabilities; • Sanctions for non-compliance with reporting requirements; and • Requirements for the receiving public institution to publish in a timely manner all financial reports received from political parties/candidates. Abuse of Public Resources A common problem in many countries including Mali, Russia, and Togo has been ruling parties’ monopolization of state media; utilization of state institutions’ assets for electioneering logistics; intimidation of opposition supporters by security forces to prevent them from attending rallies; and denial of political rally permits to opposition parties. There are reports that such abuses also took place in Zimbabwe’s 2018 harmonized elections. The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) noted that government buildings, vehicles, and food aid were used for campaign purposes. 8 Similarly, the “Zimbabwe International Election Observation Mission Final Report” by the International Republican Institute (IRI).