Impact of delimitation on Zim’s electoral democracy
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.
Since then, some constituencies have ballooned while others have shrunk or remained small. Section 161(1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe defines the relationship between delimitation and the population census.
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 The government has conceded to this position and have had the proposal withdrawn.
In early 2019, Zesn conducted research to determine citizens’ perceptions on delimitation in Zimbabwe.
The study revealed that citizens largely lack knowledge of the delimitation process and recommended that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) should ensure consultation with stakeholders on delimitation; the government must provide adequate financial resources for the process and that a roadmap is needed for delimitation.
Zesn, like other stakeholders, supports the adoption of the Census Bill instead of delinking the census from delimitation.
The research clearly showed demographic changes have left the 2008 delimitation irrelevant with large variations in constituencies, leaving 106 out of the 210 constituencies not conforming to the acceptable +/_ 20 percent variation.
Examples include Harare South which has over 70 000 registered voters (+280 percent), Goromonzi South also has over 70 000 voters (+269 percent) and on the other extreme, Wedza South and Gutu North with about 14 000 (-53percent).
The most important values underpinning delimitation are; representativeness, equality of voting strength, accuracy, timeliness, participation and service mindedness, reciprocity and non-discrimination. Any compromise on any of these values would affect the results of the Delimitation process.
Zimbabwe can take from the region on the conduct of delimitation; Zambia and Malawi as good examples. In Zambia, the delimitation authority consulted widely all the relevant stakeholders, including chiefs in rural areas, citizens and members of parliament. The authority also provided a roadmap for the exercise timeously, and made use of preferential data and annual projections of the census for the exercise. All this helped to build confidence in all stakeholders involved including political parties.
On August 18, 2020 Zesn hosted a Virtual Public Meeting under the banner Making Elections Make Sense in the Covid-19 Era where stakeholders discussed ‘The Impact of Delimitation on Electoral Democracy in Zimbabwe’.
There were several insightful contributions from panellists that included Tawanda Chimhini, the director of Election Resource Centre, Ellen Dingani representing Zesn and Kucaca Phulu of the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance.
There was an expression on the need for a clear legal framework that defines how dispute cases involving delimitation should be amicably and timeously resolved.
The role of civil society in the delimitation process was also discussed and it was noted that the civil society has already done much in engaging Zec, proffering solutions based on lessons from the region and international best practices, working on raising public awareness on the process and playing an oversight role on institutions involved in the process.
Zec was encouraged to produce a clear roadmap and plan that is shared with stakeholders on time. The engagement re-emphasised the need to continuously consult and engage electoral stakeholders. Zec was urged to continuously build the much-needed trust and confidence of electoral stakeholders as it is fundamental and part of the reforming processes of elections in Zimbabwe.
They also emphasised that it is crucial that all hands are on deck regarding the delimitation process, as this will positively influence the quality of the 2023 elections in Zimbabwe.