The Zimbabwe Elections Support Network (ZESN) says ZEC should not attempt to use the 2007-2008 delimitation report as it is based on old data which is not reflective of the current voting patterns.
ZEC is at sixes and sevens to ensure that the delimitation report is ready for use in this year’s elections but faces an uphill task as there are several discrepancies which need to be addressed before the 25th of February, which is a cutoff date for the commission to provide a report which will be used for this year’s polls.
In its comprehensive analysis, ZESN said ZEC must come up with a report that cannot taint the authenticity of this year’s polls.
To this end, ZESN reported that ZEC has to finalize the delimitation exercise in time for elections while reiterating that failure is not an option since it would directly mean the failure of a constitutional body to deliver on its mandate.
“ZEC is urged not to use and adopt the 2007-2008 delimitation report for the 2023 general elections. The 2008 Report is based on old data and cannot in any way reflect current voting patterns and representativeness.
“It is our submission that ZEC has the capacity to correct and address the identified errors and mistakes in time for the gazetting of the Final Report for the 2023 general elections,” ZESN said in its report published over the weekend,
The report has been questioned for failing to properly demarcate the country’s boundaries.
“From a constitutionalism perspective, the Commission is mandated to deliver a correct, adequately reflective and representative Delimitation Report. The principle of adequate political representation is expressed in section 3 (2) (b) (iii) of the Constitution and is an element of the principle of good governance.
“In this regard, proceeding to elections based on a Delimitation Report with so many critical errors, is in breach of the principle of good governance, and in particular, adequate representation,” said ZESN.
The election watchdog further noted that to instil public confidence and trust in the delimitation process, ZEC should make available the electronic voters’ roll to enable stakeholders to compare the data used by ZEC in compiling the Preliminary Delimitation Report, to the statistics in the voters’ roll.
Preliminary reports, ZESN stated, often contain errors and mistakes that are corrected upon validation and prior to the production of the Final Report.
“The preliminary census report may not lead to results that reflect reality, thereby distorting representativeness,” ZESN added.
The delimitation process is outlined in section 161 of the 2013 Constitution, as read with the Electoral Act Chapter 2:13.
Elections are prepared for, conducted and supervised by the Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) which is an independent state institution under Chapter 12 of the Constitution. The process is also guided by the Census and Statistics Act (Chapter 10:29).
In the conduct of this exercise, provisions of Section 161 of the Constitution guide the Commission. Section 161(5) of the Constitution states that the Commission must ensure that no ward is divided between two or more local authority areas.
Another election watchdog, the Election Resource Center raised alarm saying a return to the pre-existing 2007/2008 boundaries goes against the principles of the equality of the vote as the boundaries of the current constituencies and wards are grossly unequal.
Meanwhile, Legal and constitutional think-tank Veritas says even if section 161(9) of the Constitution stipulates that once the preliminary report has been referred to Zec for further consideration of any matter, this does not mean that the electoral body should disregard the Constitution.
“Zec’s decisions are final and conclusive in matters where Zec can exercise a discretion — for instance to draw a boundary in order to take account of particular physical features or to reflect the community of interest between voters — but in matters of constitutionality, Zec has no discretion: The final delimitation report must comply with the Constitution. Hence if Parliament correctly points out that Zec has used an unconstitutional formula to calculate differences in voter numbers between constituencies and wards, Zec must correct its mistake. It has no discretion in the matter,” Veritas said.
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