Zec report flawed, unconstitutional
THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec)’s decision to retain flaws flagged in the preliminary delimitation report presented to President Emmerson Mnangagwa in December last year renders the final report unconstitutional, adding to other fatal flaws, analysts have warned.
Mnangagwa was already under fire for failing to gazette the delimitation report within the 14’day period prescribed by the constitution.
The electoral body was racing against time to produce the final report as is required by section 161 of the constitution, which mandates it to reconfigure electoral boundaries after every 10 years.
Mnangagwa gazetted the proclamation report on Tuesday (21 December), having received the final report from Zec chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba on 3 February, although constitutionally he was meant to have gazetted it by 17 February.
Some senior government officials, including Information secretary Nick Mangwana, however insisted the President received a draft report on 3 February. Chigumba however presented a draft report to Mnangagwa in December last year. The draft was tabled before parliament and referred back to Zec with recommendations.
Curiously, however, the government announced in the gazette that Mnangagwa received the final report on 17 February.
In terms of the constitution, Mnangagwa, who has torpedoed the gazetting process, was supposed to publish the report on 17 February after receiving it on 3 February, as announced by Chigumba.
The flaw Legal think-tank Veritas says the final delimitation report has in some cases retained a ward and constituency population threshold of over 20%, contrary to the constitution, which has in the past been condemned by the experts.
“In our Election Watch 2/2023 of the 9th January, we pointed out that in the preliminary delimitation report Zec had used an incorrect formula to calculate the permissible variations in voter numbers between constituencies and wards.
“Instead of allowing a maximum 20% variation as laid down in section 161(6) of the Constitution, Zec’s formula allowed variations of up to 40%. It seems from pages ix to xii of the proclamation that Zec has continued to use this formula for its final delimitation.
“If that is so, then the delimitation is unconstitutional,” Veritas says in its analysis.
Suspicion of foul play shrouds the submission of the final report to Mnangagwa, as it has been given scant publicity, compared to other state events.
“If the report was indeed the final report then the President had 14 days in which to publish the ward and constituency boundaries shown in the report (section 161(11) of the Constitution). That 14-day period expired last Friday, the 17th February, which means the President’s proclamation was late.
“On the other hand the proclamation itself says the President received the final delimitation report on the 17th February, and if that is so the proclamation was published well within the constitutional time-limit.
“It is curious however that no publicity was given to the handing over of the final report, after the fanfare surrounding the handing over of the ‘draft final report’; curious too that the President should have received the report, while according to the Herald, he was in Addis Ababa,” Veritas notes.
Description of boundaries
The proclamation also fails to declare ward and constituency boundaries, which is contrary to section 161 (11) of the constitution.
“Within fourteen days after receiving the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s final report, the President must publish a proclamation in the Gazette declaring the names and boundaries of the wards and constituencies as finally determined by the commission,” reads the constitution.
However, in the proclamation, and also in the report, wards are described in a way that makes it difficult to work out boundaries.
“We use Ward 1 of Chitungwiza Municipality as an example. This ward has a total of 6 327 registered voters. It is made up of the following polling areas: 6301CHIT0101, 6301CHIT0102, 6301CHIT0103, 6301CHIT0104, 6301CHIT0105, 6301CHIT0106, 6301CHIT0107 and 6301CHIT0108.
“Unless one knows what these ‘polling areas’ are, one cannot work out the ward’s boundaries. Similarly, constituencies are described as follows (we use Budiriro North as a representative example).
“Budiriro constituency has 32 991 registered voters. It is made up of wards 34 and 43 of Harare Municipality. Since there is no proper description of the ward boundaries it is impossible to work out the boundaries of the constituency.
“Section 161(11) requires the President to ‘declare’ the boundaries of wards and constituencies, not describe them, but without some descriptions what use is the proclamation?” questions Veritas.
Effect on election dates?
Veritas believes the new delimitation report will have an effect on election dates, with likelihood of the election being held in August, six months after publication of the proclamation.
“If the new delimitation is to be used for the mid-year general election, then — according to section 161(2) of the Constitution — polling day in the election will have to be no earlier than the 20th August, i.e. six months after publication of the proclamation. Since the latest date on which an election must be held is the 26th August, which does not give Zec or the President much leeway.”