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Delimitation fiasco an acid test

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PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa faces an acid test as his handling of the delimitation report could affect the credibility of this year’s general elections or leave him valnerable to impeachment.

BRENNA MATENDERE

In terms of the law, the President must gazette the report by 17 February 2023, amid a sinister plot by senior government officials to subvert the constitution and disrupt delimitation process.

According to the constitution, Mnangagwa must gazette the final delimitation report by 17 February, which marks 14 days after he received it from Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba (pictured) on 3 February.

If Mnangagwa does not gazette the final delimitation report by 17 February 2023, he will be in serious breach of the constitution – an impeachable offence.

However, his spokesperson George Charamba, Information ministry permanent secretary Nick Mangwana and Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi have been adamant that the delimitation report given to him is not final.

Charamba and Mangwana last week said the report which Mnangagwa got from Chigumba was just a draft which he will have to further study and proffer recommendations on,  despite a similar process having already taken place.

As the mercy process gets more convoluted, Mangwana relented on their political chicanery, saying his remarks that the report is not final were merely about “flying a kite”.

In another development which showed that the government harbours a sinister plot to subvert the constitution on the final delimitation report, Ziyambi this week said the report presented to Mnangagwa last Friday was “basically for consideration”.

Ziyambi, who is also Zanu PF secretary for information communication technology, was quoted in the state-run Herald on Monday at his party’s cell verification meeting in Chinhoyi making the startling remarks.

However, independent watchdogs like the Election Resource Centre (ERC) and Team Pachedu have come out clearly clarifying the legal position on the delimitation report, invalidating the claims of Charamba, Mangwana and Ziyambi.

In a statement released on Tuesday this week, the ERC said there is no constitutional room for Zec to re-submit another delimitation report to Mnangagwa after what the commission did on Friday.

“The ERC takes note of the submission of the delimitation report by Zec Chairperson Justice P. Chigumba on 3 February 2023. The ERC further notes erroneous public comments stating that the delimitation report submitted as not being final.  Sections 160 (7), (8), (9) and (10) detail the submission process of the delimitation report. “

“The Constitution [section 160(7)] states that after carrying out the delimitation exercise, the Zec must submit to the President a Preliminary Report, which must be laid before Parliament within seven days.”

“(This was completed, with the preliminary report being submitted by Zec on 26 December 2022.)”

“Following the submission of the Preliminary Report to Parliament, the President and Parliament had fourteen days to refer the report back to Zec for further consideration of any matter or issue. (This was completed with the President handing over Parliament’s Ad-Hoc Committee report to the ZEC Chairperson on 20 January 2023, while President Mnangagwa submitted his comments to the Zec Chairperson on 23 January 2023.)”

“Once the Report has been referred back to Zec, according to section 160 (9) of the Constitution Zec may give further consideration to the matter or issue concerned, but the Commission’s decision on it is final. The Constitution does not allow for re-submission of another delimitation report for further consideration.”

“After considering matters or issues raised by the President and Parliament, Zec must submit a final delimitation report to the President, giving the President fourteen days to gazette the Final Delimitation Report. (The ERC notes that on 3 February 2023, Zec submitted the Final Delimitation Report in line with the Constitution, with the Office of the President and Cabinet confirming the submission of the Final Delimitation Report as per the law.)” reads the ERC’s statement.

On whether or not there can be re-submission of the report by Zec, the ERC said: “There is no constitutional or legislative provision that allows for the re-submission of a preliminary delimitation report by Zec following the initial submission of the preliminary report. The Constitution states that once the Commission considers issues raised by the President and Parliament, its decision is final and must submit a final report.”

“The finality of the Commission’s decision is to protect its independence in carrying out the delimitation process, and not potentially submit Zec to the undue influence of stakeholders, by repeatedly submitting the report for comments.”

According to video excerpts published by the Office of the President and cabinet on 3 February 2023, following the submission of the delimitation report, the Zec chairperson Chigumba is quoted as saying the electoral body had re-submitted the delimitation report with corrections made and the “President has the mandate in terms of section 160 (10) [of the Constitution] to gazette the final delimitation report within 14 days.”

Team Pachedu’s submissions were similar to those of the ERC.

“While section 161, sub-section 8 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe allows President and Parliament to raise any issue or matter regarding preliminary delimitation to report to Zec for further consideration, there is no legal or constitutional provision which allows either the President or Parliament to further review changes that Zec decides to make to the Preliminary delimitation report.”

“The changes Zec decides to make are final according to Section 161 (a) of the Constitution.”

Team Pachedu also submitted that while the President can read the final delimitation report to determine how it captures recommendations made by Parliament and him, he has no choice but to simply gazette the document. 

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