Census Bill: Right step to 2023 polls

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THE Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) welcomes the move by the government to come up with a Census and Statistics Amendment Bill of 2020 to enable the delimitation of electoral boundaries to be conducted well in time before the 2023 elections.

Gazetted on June 12, this Bill will amend the Census and Statistics Act so as to align the taking of decennial national censuses in a manner that will enable the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to take into account census data when delimiting electoral boundaries every 10 years as required by Section 161 (1) of the Constitution.

Accordingly, clause 2 will require a decennial census to be taken every 10th anniversary that ended on July 1.
This will afford Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) ample time to delimit electoral boundaries in accordance with census data.

In its recent submissions to the parliamentary portfolio committee on Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Zesn categorically opposed clause 12 of the Constitutional Amendment Bill Number 2 which sought to remove the linkage between delimitation and population censuses.

The argument that was propounded to rely on the voters’ roll to mark electoral boundaries is inadequate given the fact that a Member of Parliament or councillor is a representative of all people in a constituency or ward, not just those that are registered on the voters’ roll.

Given population movements over the years, the current electoral boundaries are arguably no longer representative of the voters with the last delimitation exercise conducted in 2008.

The last population census was carried out in 2012 and the next is due in 2022, a year before the elections in 2023.
The census is governed by legislation and can be easily amended without effecting changes to the Constitution.

The move to amend the Census and Statistics Act is consistent with calls by Zesn for the census to be moved backwards to address concerns around the process of delimiting electoral boundaries instead of delinking the delimitation exercise from the population census.

The census provides a useful dataset which could help in improving the integrity of the delimitation exercise.
Delinking the delimitation of electoral boundaries from the population census would have affected democratic representation and raised suspicions about gerrymandering, a practice where electoral boundaries are manipulated in order to suit one political party’s interests over its competitors’ interests.

Zesn believes that the delimitation of electoral boundaries is one of the key processes in the electoral cycle with a bearing on the credibility of electoral outcomes.

Apart from conducting the census earlier so as to allow for the resultant data to be used in the delimitation exercise, Zesn encourages that principles of delimitation such as impartiality, equality of the vote, non-discrimination, representativeness and transparency be embedded in the process.

 

-ZESN 

 

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