ZIMBABWE’S delimitation process, which changed shapes and boundaries of parliamentary constituencies, has left Zanu PF in a stronger position in the opposition fiefdom, Harare province, after it created three new constituencies in Harare South and Epworth areas.
While there are some changes in Zanu PF-dominated provinces, the process mainly left things as they were after factoring in new shifts in shapes, aerial extent and distribution.
But in Harare the changes favour Zanu PF, which by definition and design amount to gerrymandering.
Three constituencies emerged out of Harare South, which means an additional two. Harare South is under Zanu PF MP Tongai Mnangagwa, related to President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
An additional constituency was created in Epworth also under Zanu PF MP Zalerah Makari, who is related to the late former president Robert Mugabe’s family.
Gerrymandering is manipulation of electoral constituency boundaries to favour one party or class, in this case the ruling Zanu PF.
The delimitation report by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) seeks to gerrymander election results for Zanu PF in main opposition CCC areas.
In terms of changes in the number of constituencies, there wasn’t much shift.Harare now has 30 constituencies from 29, but there were changes that necessitated creating two new constituencies in Harare South and one more in Epworth. Harare North was reconfigured into Hatcliffe.
In Bulawayo, seven constituencies were reconfigured and renamed, but the total remained the same – 12.
In other provinces, constituencies were reconfigured but the number didn’t change, except in Matabeleland South which lost one – Bililima East. Most changes are administrative.
Zec conducted a delimitation exercise from last June 2022 in order to fix the boundaries of constituencies and wards for the general elections this year.
On Monday 26 December 2022, Zec chairperson Priscilla Chigumba presented the preliminary delimitation report to Mnangagwa.
After receiving the preliminary report, the President must table it before Parliament – that is the National Assembly and the Senate – within seven days.
So as a result, Mnangagwa quickly summoned Parliament to debate the report, hence MPs are meeting today over the issue.
Within 14 days, the President must refer the preliminary report back to Zec for the commission to consider any issue raised by himself or parliament. Zec must give consideration to any matter so raised, but its decision on them is final [section 161(8) & (9)].
Once Zec has prepared its final delimitation report it must send the document to the President, who must publish it in the government gazette within 14 days [section 161(10) & (11).
In terms of section 161 (2) of the constitution, if a delimitation of electoral boundaries is completed less than six months before polling day in a general election, the boundaries so delineated do not apply to that election, and instead the previous one remain in place.
This means Zec’s final delimitation report must be published by 28 January 20233 if the new boundaries demarcated are to apply to this year’s elections.
That’s why Mnangagwa has put in place a fast-track process – from 6 January 2023 to 19 January 2023 – to finish the process.
Meanwhile, there is already a host of other substantive and process-related grave concerns over Zec’s controversial delimitation process, which means the exercise might end up being seriously challenged in parliament and in the courts.-STAFF WRITER