THE National Assembly degenerated into a comical spectacle this past week after Zanu PF legislators heaped praises on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, (Zec), for successfully conducting last year’s general elections despite the scathing reports by foreign observer missions and civil society organisations in the aftermath of the shambolic polls.
During the Tuesday sitting, which was generally a Zanu PF meeting because opposition MPs were banned from attending sessions in the House, Mberengwa North MP Tafanana Zhou commended the electoral body for executing the delimitation exercise successfully.
This is despite the condemnation of the delimitation process from members of the Ninth Parliament across board.
“First and foremost, I would like to congratulate Zec for a job well done before the elections when they dealt with the issue of the Delimitation Commission. They did very well in delimitation of the constituencies. We are all aware that the majority of us were in the Ninth Parliament. Both the opposition and the ruling party, we are saying that the report was not good in terms of delimitation of the constituencies which showed that Zec was independent and there was no interference when they came up with the delimitation exercise. It is these 20 seats that were delimitated by Zec that some honourable members in this august House are now occupying. We thank them for a job well done,” said Zhou.
The delimitation report was a subject of debate in the lower House for days, with Citizens’ Coalition for Change MPs like Tendai Biti and Zanu PF’s Joseph Chinotimba asking that the delimitation report be redone.
The Southern African Development (Sadc) Community Observer Mission led by former vice-president of Zambia Nevers Mumba also cited that the way Zec calculated its variants in delimiting constituencies left a lot to be desired.
“Constitution uses actual constituency-by-constituency registered voter population, not the national average number of constituency voter population, to calculate the permissible deviation from the requirement that constituencies must have an equal number of voters. Mathematically, the two methods produce very different results and affect the equality of the vote concerning the elections to Parliament. On the other hand, since the country votes as a single constituency in the presidential election, the difference in the methods has no particular impact on the equality of the vote in that election. It was, therefore, not unexpected that Zec would receive substantial criticism on this aspect of its latest delimitation report,” reported Sadc.
The European Union Observer Mission (EUOM) also reported that it had gathered that the delimitation report was flawed given events in Parliament.
“A preliminary report, proposing the redrawing of several constituencies and an increase in the number of wards from 1 958 to 1 970 was presented by Zec to the Parliament on 26 December. The report drew criticism from a wide range of stakeholders, including ruling party and opposition representatives and some Zec commissioners. An ad hoc parliamentary committee found that the formula applied by Zec to determine voter population per constituency did not align with the respective constitutional provisions,” reported the EUOM.
The African Union (AU) Observer Mission also noted that there was gerrymandering in the way the electoral commission conducted the delimitation.
“The Mission’s interactions with civic and political actors revealed that concerns persist regarding the process and outcome of the delimitation exercise. These included: allegations of inadequate consultation with stakeholders despite assertion by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission that there were consultations at all levels; use of inaccurate population figures; gerrymandering in some areas to produce pre-determined election results; and limited civic education on the delimitation,” reported the AU Observer Mission.
With only two members of the opposition present, Zanu PF took the opportunity to praise the electoral management body for conducting the delimitation process professionally despite condemnation across the board in Parliament and by observers.
In addition, the Douglas Mwonzora-led MDC-Alliance took Zec to court over the delimitation report, and the courts dismissed its application. Legislator Noah Mangondo of Murewa South also added to the debate, saying the election was flawless, despite the glaring shortcomings, late reception of ballots and midnight voting.
“I would like to congratulate Zec for the very peaceful election that was conducted within an enabling environment and that produced a free, fair and credible election result,” said Mangondo.
The praise show continued unabated. Mangondo added that the roll was released as required by law despite numerous complaints by the opposition and the observer missions.
“Zec produced a voters’ roll based on our polling stations in terms of the constitution. The voters’ roll is a very important document and Zec was able to produce the voters’ roll which enabled people to inspect the voters’ roll within proximity to where they reside. So, the polling station voters’ roll was a major instrument in terms of producing a free and fair election and I would like to congratulate Zec as well for having produced a polling station-based voters’ roll,” said Mangondo.
The opposition CCC took Zec to court over the accessibility of the voters’ roll, but the courts found for Zec.
Observer missions also noted the issue of the voters’ roll as key in a transparent election. “The law makes the voters’ roll a public document and mandates Zec to provide electronic or hard copies ‘within a reasonable period of time’ to those who request it.
However, in the months preceding the elections, Zec withheld the electronic copy from stakeholders, citing concerns over data privacy.
After repeated requests and legal challenges by CCC against Zec, the ‘final’ electronic voters’ roll was provided to parties as late as on 10 July. In addition, it set a US$187 000 fee (US$1 per page) for each printed copy, contrary to legal provisions that require ‘reasonable cost’,” noted EUOM.
As a recommendation from the AU Observer Mission, Zec was advised to avail the roll for inspection.
“To the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, finalise the voters’ roll on time and avail it to stakeholders in line with the provisions of the Electoral Act in order to enhance transparency,” read the report.