The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has been urged to speed up the delimitation process ahead of the 2023 elections, the failure of which will result in the country using boundaries set in 2008.
The delimitation process was last done in 2008 despite there being provisions in the constitution for it to be done after every 10 years.
The process divides the country into constituencies and wards for purposes of elections and ensures equal distribution of the electorate.
Constituency and ward boundaries have not been redrawn since shortly before the 2008 elections and therefore do not take into account the most recent census (2022).
However, time is running out for ZEC to implement the process as it should be completed less than six months before a general election.
The process has also been mired by lack of transparency as has been the case in the previous times it has been done.
ZESN Senior Electoral Education and Capacity Building Officer Emma Chiseya said if not well-managed, delimitation could be a source of conflict and would have an impact on electoral processes and outcomes.
“ZEC should allow broad-based citizens participation and the process should be transparent. We need to be monitoring and advocating for transparency,” she said.
Currently, there are no provisions in the Constitution or electoral law requiring transparency or public access to the delimitation process.
Just as the voters’ rolls are subjected to public inspection, and for the same reasons, the Delimitation Report should also be inspected and verified by members of the public before it is finalised.
In a race against time, ZEC is now likely to acquire the population data from this census in sufficient time to use it to delimit preliminary electoral boundaries; incorporate comments from the public, the President, and Parliament; and finalize the boundaries at least six months before polling day in 2023.
Election Resource Centre (ERC) programmes manager Solomon Bobosibunu said there is a need to pile pressure on ZEC for it to do the process.
“If this process is not going to be completed by December 31 so that we have something around mid-January in 2023, we are going to continue with the current boundaries as they are. As journalists, we need to push ZEC so that the process happens ahead of schedule, he said.
By the 2018 elections, there were significant variations in the size of constituencies, with deviations in the number of registered voters of more than 20 per cent in 106 of the 210 constituencies.
The largest constituency (Harare South), with 76,425 voters, was more than five times larger than the smallest constituency (Gutu North), with 14,198 voters.
ZESN Monitoring and Observation Manager Ian Goredema said it is alarming that there are several constituencies which need to be looked into as they are disproportionately marked.
“That’s not good, it means that our constituencies don’t have equal strength. We are way long overdue in having the boundary delimitation,” Goredema said.
In the 2018 elections, the Election Observer Missions recommended that it is important to complete boundary delimitation no less than one year prior to the next election.
However, the delimitation reports have been provided late, making it virtually impossible for the proposed boundaries and maps to be scrutinised by interested parties.
There were recommendations to establish an independent, ad hoc, or permanent commission in charge of drawing the electoral constituency boundaries so as to ensure inclusive consultation and increase public confidence in the process, which has not happened.