‘Delimitation process will promote electoral democracy’
In a bid to engage citizens in unpacking the delimitation process in the country amid the COVID-19, Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) hosted a virtual Public Meeting recently.
This comes as Zesn concluded that delimitation of electoral boundaries need to comply with international standards of quality voting strength, representatives and non-discrimination as stated in their position paper on delimitation ahead of the 2023 polls.
The virtual public meeting comprised of various discussants from around the country as they exchanged views on the importance of the delimitation process.
Constitutional law expert James Tsabora who was the main speaker was first to give his views on the subject of discussion.
“In Zimbabwe, we have a constitutional democracy, which is a democracy derived from the principles in the constitution.
“A delimitation process in the electoral system is there to promote that kind of constitutional democracy, but principally it is there to promote representative democracy.
“It is there to promote the right of people to choose their representatives in a manner that they want, that is transparent, free, credible and in a manner that respects the political rights of citizens,” Tsabora said on the virtual meeting.
Tsabora furthermore added that by doing so, a delimitation process will promote electoral democracy through electoral processes.
Guest speaker, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) commissioner Qhubani Moyo was quizzed on ZEC’s capacity and preparedness to carry out the delimitation exercise.
“In the past elections, 2018 and 2013, we used the same boundaries that were constructed in 2007.
“It has become very urgent that the coming elections be done using the new boundaries.
“In doing that, ZEC has set up a framework that is going to ensure that our delimitation exercise is impartial,” Moyo said on the virtual meeting.
Moyo also assured that ZEC is going to engage key stakeholders in the political process and civic society groups in the delimitation process.
“We are also going to ensure that our delimitation exercise is based on the principles of transparency so that whatever we do is open to all the public.
“We are also going to ensure that every citizen is seen and treated equally and is given equal opportunities and respect in the whole process,” Moyo added.
ZESN electoral education and capacity building officer, Emma Chiseya, commented on the importance of citizen participation in promoting credibility of the delimitation process.
“Citizens participation is a key element in all electoral processes as it strengthens our democracy.
“In boundary delimitations, citizen participation and stakeholders’ engagement is vital because it promotes transparency, confidence and trust in the whole processes,” Chiseya said on the virtual meeting.
Chiseya also noted that she expects to see citizens’ participation firstly by registering to vote because without the voter there’s no delimitation or an election to talk of.
“It is imperative that ZEC conducts voter registration drive aimed at boosting the number of registered voters and the voter’s roll should be comprehensive, current and accurate,” Chiseya said further.
ZESN Matabeleland region field officer Ndodana Ndhlovu was present to express the expectations of citizens in Bulawayo and Matabeleland province in relation to the delimitation exercise.
“People of Matabeleland have so many expectations when it comes to the delimitation exercise.
“They expect that the delimitation process be done according to the laws of this country and that when it is done, they expect that it should increase the number of parliamentary and council representatives in the chambers.
“There is no room in their expectations to say that when delimitation is done, it will reduce the number of representation in the chambers.
“This is basically coming from a perception that the region is generally marginalised and if delimitation is to be conducted and reduces the number of representation, it will be tantamount to further marginalising the region,” Ndhlovu said.
Ndhlovu furthermore highlighted that the people of Matabeleland expect an extensive voter education and voter registration to be done in order to correct the imbalances that exist in the region.
Human rights defender, Prisca Dube from Bulawayo, gave some insights on the legal framework and regulatory procedures on the delimitation exercise.
“What we need to appreciate is that, Zimbabwe’s legal framework does comply when it comes to delimitation.
“It does comply to the international best practices in important respect, particularly when you start from our constitution,” Dube said.
Dube expressed that the law states that there should be a periodical delimitation to ensure that the constituencies as well as the wards are relatively equal in population so that we address historical issues.
Media monitors and ZESN taskforce chairperson David Muchambiwa from Manicaland addressed the issue of how citizens have been consulted in that region, in regards to the delimitation process.
“The consultations have been very slow, ZEC has been incapacitated to cover most of the areas in order to sensitise the people and also register people for the election process.
“There are hindrances that as a region on the border, people are intermarried and so have a tendency of voting in Mozambique and others voting in Zimbabwe and have documents from both countries.
“Some of the areas in Manicaland are very difficult to navigate and so people need high terrain vehicles in order to be able to access some people in that region,” Muchambiwa said further.
One citizen who followed the virtual meeting identified as Tafadzwa Muropa, was of the view that Zimbabwe needs to look at elections not as an event but a process.
“ZEC needs to share its strategy with citizens in terms of articulating its intended plans between the conclusion of the last elections and preparations for the next elections.
“Civil society needs to keep citizens interested in electoral processes even after the harmonised elections have been concluded,” Muropa said in a comment.
With Zimbabwe having a history of contested elections, the constant reviewing of boundaries is crucial as the last redrawing of boundaries was in 2008, almost 12 years ago.
The Constitutional Amendment Bill No. 2 of 2020 proposes the delink between the two processes, with the argument that the 2022 census would be too close to the 2023 elections, leaving inadequate time between for the census report to be used for the delimitation process.
Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) proposes that the census be done earlier instead of the processes to be delinked.
The government has conceded to this position and have had the proposal withdrawn.