THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s botched delimination has robbed opposition stronghold Harare metropolitan province by denying it at least six additional constituencies — even going by Zec’s own flawed methodology.
Although stakeholders, including Parliament, believe Zec misinterpreted constitutional provisions resulting in some constituencies, especially in Harare, having a variance of more than 40% compared to some constituencies instead of the lawful 20%, even by the embattled commission’s own interpretation Harare was still hard done.
Section 161 (6) of the constitution stipulates that “no constituency or ward of the local authority concerned may have more than twenty percent more or fewer registered voters than the other such constituencies or wards”.
In line with Zec’s interpretation of section 161 (6) of the constitution, the commission set the maximum registered voter threshold of 33 169 and a minimum threshold of 22 112 voters for each constituency.
This was after dividing the total number of registered voters at the national level by 210 constituencies, resulting in a national average of 27 640 voters per constituency. A variance from the national average was then calculated as average plus/minus 20%.
Harare had 952 520 registered voters when the delimitation exercise was carried out. There were therefore expectations that the Zec delimitation exercise would result in an increase of Harare constituencies from 29 to 36 using the average voter matrix, but the electoral body added only one, making them 30.
At close to one million voters, Harare had 189 492 more registered voters than the Midlands, but the two provinces are separated by only two constituencies.
The Midlands is President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s citadel, where he was once MP for Chirumanzu-Zibagwe before passing the seat to his wife Auxilia after he was appointed vice-president to the late president Robert Mugabe.
The Midlands province has 28 constituencies and Zanu PF controls 22 of them in Parliament.
The opposition CCC controls a minority six, mostly in urban areas Mkoba, Chiundura, Kwekwe Central, Gweru Urban, Mbizo and Redcliff.
The parliamentary ad hoc committee which analysed Zec’s draft delimitation report has once again failed to emphasise the need for additional constituencies in Harare.
The development is therefore likely to result in Zec ignoring calls by some stakeholders for an increase of constituencies in Harare from the allocated 30 to 36 on the basis of the growth in population in the metropolitan province since 2008 when the last delimitation exercise was conducted.
However, the 13-member parliamentary ad hoc committee led by Zanu PF’s Gutu South MP Pupurai Togarepi did not raise any concerns on Harare.
Asked to respond on the issue, Togarepi said: “The ad hoc committee looked at every province and we gave our views to constitutional issues. We had opposition members in the ad hoc committee whom you can check with as well.”
Ellen Shiriyedenga, the CCC deputy secretary for elections, said there was every reason for Harare to have more local government wards and constituencies.
She added that the party had put forward such submissions to Zec during consultations, but the requests were turned down.
“Currently, Harare has 46 wards and the local authority had requested to extend them to 55 because of the city’s population growth, but Zec turned down the request. Constituencies were supposed to be increased from 30 to 36, according to numbers of voters released by Zec,” she said.
Shiriyedenga singled out Harare South as a constituency with a very high number of voters and added that it was unfair for it to be regarded as a single municipal ward at Harare City Council, although it was split into three constituencies.
“Harare South is both a constituency and a ward with over 84 000 people. It’s being serviced by one councillor,” she said.
Harare South was divided into three parliamentary constituencies, namely Harare South, Churu and Hunyani.
Harare South is represented in Parliament by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s close relative Tongai Mnangagwa. There are many informal settlements in the constituency, most of which are controlled by Zanu PF-linked land barons.
Zanu PF will be hoping to regain the three constituencies.
Zec also split Epworth constituency won by Zanu PF’s Zalerah Makari in the 26 March by-election into Epworth North and Epworth South constituencies.
Zanu PF will also be fancying its chances in Epworth, which also has informal settlements controlled by Zanu PF-linked land barons.