The issue whether voters have the right to object to the inclusion of individuals with history of corruption into party candidate lists has taken the spotlight ahead of the elections.
Political parties submitted candidate lists to the Electoral Commission amidst a public outcry over inclusion of individuals implicated in allegations of state capture or accused of wrongdoing and corruption.
Public scrutiny of election candidates on political party lists has until recently remained passive. What is different ahead of this election? Two reasons stand out.
First, over the years many seem to think that the right to stand for public office is a right made available to citizens only by the courtesy of political parties.
This is because the electoral system does not yet allow citizens who are not members of a political party to stand for public office for national and provincial legislative bodies.
Because of this shortcoming many seem to think that citizens should be content with whatever is made available to them by political parties.
However, the growing public concern is that to elevate political parties to a point of wielding unfettered power to decide on election candidates without taking heed of objections by citizens is akin to assertions that the right to candidacy is an exclusive privilege of political elites.
In my view, those assertions are consistent with the patriarchal notion of society. Under this practice party elites assume power to dictate the dimension of all that goes with the making of public representatives.
Second is the blind faith in the wisdom of the state to facilitate enjoyment of the right to candidacy.
Citizens have been made to believe the state has already revealed the history of candidates by laying down qualifications and disqualification rules regulating standing for public office, and until or unless the state decides to add anything to what is already given, ordinary adult citizens have no business to intervene.
Commendably, the constitution and electoral laws expressly preclude a few categories of persons to be candidates for election, inter alia, persons who have been convicted and sentenced to more than a year in jail.
However, this is not exhaustive as public scrutiny should extend to exclude candidates of questionable integrity during nomination, including those implicated in allegations of state capture.
Revelations of state capture call for more vigilance by voters.
Cleansing our electoral politics of any persons lacking integrity to hold public office should start with public interrogation of the lists and extend to rejecting in the polls political parties that fall short of taking decisive action to excise from the list unsuitable and ineligible candidates.
The urgency to act should be underlined by a broad realisation that, once entrenched, tolerance of corrupt individuals in our electoral politics could start assuming an institutionalised character.
The origin of the problem shows that our electoral system is deficient in some material respects, including insofar as it disqualifies all who are not members of a political party from standing for national and provincial legislative bodies.
This raises the question of electoral reforms and the need for redoubled efforts to entrench a political culture intolerant of corruption in order to make our elections transparent.
* Nyembezi is a policy analyst and co-chairperson of the Elections 2019 National Co-ordinating Forum
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.