A record 23 people yesterday successfully filed nomination papers to contest as presidential candidates in the July 30 harmonised elections. The record figure, the highest since independence in 1980, has been described by political analysts as a sign of mature democracy and the opening up of political space by President Mnangagwa's new dispensation.
In the 2002 presidential elections, there were five candidates -- Messrs Robert Mugabe (Zanu-PF), Morgan Tsvangirai (MDC), Wilson Kumbula (Zanu Ndonga), Shakespeare Maya (National Alliance for Good Governance) and Paul Siwela (Independent).
In 2008, the number of presidential hopefuls declined to four -- Messrs Mugabe (Zanu-PF), Tsvangirai (MDC-T), Simba Makoni (Mavambo Kusile Dawn) and Langton Towungana (Independent).
In 2013, there were five presidential candidates -- Messrs Mugabe (Zanu-PF), Tsvangirai (MDC-T), Dumiso Dabengwa (Zapu), Weshman Ncube (MDC) and Mr Kisinoti Mukwazhe (Zimbabwe Democratic Party).
This year, the number rose by more than 500 percent to reach 23.
Among those who successfully filed nomination papers yesterday were President Mnangagwa (Zanu-PF) and Messrs Nelson Chamisa (MDC-Alliance), Peter Gava (United Democratic Front), Hlabangana Kwanele (Republicans Party of Zimbabwe), Divine Mhambi (National Alliance of Patriotic and Democratic Republicans) and Blessing Kasiyamhuru (Zimbabwe Partnership for Prosperity).
Other candidates were Dr Thokozani Khupe (MDC-T), Professor Lovemore Madhuku (National Constitutional Assembly), Messrs Noah Manyika (Build Zimbabwe Alliance), Bryn Mteki (Independent), William Mugadza (Bethel Christian Party), Evaristo Chikanga (Rebuild Zimbabwe) and Joseph Busha (FreeZim Congress).
Ms Violet Mariyacha (United Democracy Movement), Joice Mujuru (People's Rainbow Coalition), Dr Nkosana Moyo (Alliance for People's Agenda), Messrs Johannes Chiguvare (People's Progressive Party), Daniel Shumba (United Democratic Alliance), Elton Mangoma (Coalition of Democrats), Peter Munyanduri (New Patriotic Front), Ambrose Mutinhiri (National Patriotic Front), Peter Wilson (Democratic Opposition Party) and Melbah Dzepasi of #1980 Freedom Movement Zimbabwe also successfully filed their papers.
Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Cde Ziyambi Ziyambi filed papers on behalf of President Mnangagwa.
Speaking to The Herald, Cde Ziyambi said: "We have successfully launched our papers for our Presidential candidate Cde ED Mnangagwa. We, in fact, did a pre-submission yesterday (Wednesday) and the papers were duly accepted today.
"We are geared for this election and we are confident of victory. When we visited the Nomination Court, we also witnessed several political parties submitting their papers which is a sign that our democracy has really matured."
MDC Alliance secretary-general Mr Douglas Mwonzora said: "The process has so far gone well. The nomination papers of our presidential candidate were successfully filed."
Mr Mwonzora said the nomination process progressed well, but their major concern was the availability of the final voters' roll.
Mr Gava of United Democratic Front said: "The process has gone well and we are now waiting how we are going to fair out. There is a lot that we would want to say but we have reserved that for the rallies that we are going to hold."
ZEC chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba said the nomination process went on well although there were some incidents of intra-party violence.
"The process has gone on very well. All our preparations were on course," she said.
"We had the provisional Voters Roll available for the assistance of those who have not been able to access it. All of the aspiring nominees were given assistance by the ZEC and I am quite pleased with the process here at the High Court with regards to the presidential nominees and also quite pleased with the process of the nomination of those aspiring to be Members Parliament.
"However, I did take note that those aspiring for council there is a bit of a challenge there. As you know there is no monetary fee and we have found that there is a lot of aspirants for council. We did have a few incidences of allegations of intra-party violence and I am quite confident that because we have adequate number of the Zimbabwe Republic Police to take care of that.
Overall, I am fairly happy by the performance of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and its staff."
The nomination court sat until 9pm processing the papers as some of the candidates failed to gather the 100 signatures of supporters as required by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.
One candidate Mr Tendai Munyanduri of New Patriotic Front delayed the process after his cellphone ran out of power before paying nomination fees via ecocash.
He was rescued by a journalist who offered him a power bank to recharge his mobile phone.