New delimitation report flaws unearthed
ELECTION watchdog Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) has flagged the way constituencies were integrated and collapsed in the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) preliminary delimitation report citing that Zanu PF may have received an unfair advantage.
Zesn released its analysis of the delimitation report earlier this week questioning how the number of constituencies remained the same despite considerable changes in voter population since the last delimitation 13 years ago in 2008.
“Zec maintained the 2008 distribution of the number of constituencies across the provinces despite variable changes in the voting population observable across these provinces. We have provinces that maintained the same number of constituencies despite the decrease in the registered voters such as Bulawayo (-0.8%) and Masvingo (-1.2%). Only Matabeleland South (-1.3%) has seen the number its national assembly constituencies marginally reduced from 13 in 2007/8 to 12 in 2023. The reason given by Zec is that the province recorded a low number of registered voters and therefore failed to maintain the 13 constituencies it was allocated in 2007/8. While the explanation by Zec is plausible, it seems to have been applied selectively and only to Matabeleland South province,” the report reads.
“Provinces that have recorded increase in registered voters such as Mashonaland East (1.4%), Mashonaland Central (0.9%), Manicaland (0.5%), and Mashonaland East (0.3%), still maintained the number of constituencies allocated them in 2007/8. The real increase in registered voters is in Harare (3.3%), but whose national assembly constituencies marginally increased with only one instead of four as already proposed in this report. Overall, the Commission made only two minor adjustments to the number of National Assembly constituencies across provinces and these adjustments are in Harare Metropolitan and Matabeleland South.”
Zesn adds that the commission did not apply the same formula for calculating the number of people who could constitute a constituency.
“Zesn divided the total number of registered voters in a province by the national average of 27 640 voters per constituency. The results show a discrepancy between what Zesn gets using the formula and what Zec reported.
For example, the formula resulted in 34 constituencies for Harare Metropolitan, 10 for Bulawayo, 23 for Masvingo and 10 for Matabeleland South. But according to Zec, Harare Metropolitan 30 constituencies instead of 34. The other provinces with less than the expected number of constituencies are Manicaland, Mashonaland West and Central. There was a notable increase in the number of constituencies allocated to Masvingo (from 23 to 26), Bulawayo Metropolitan (from 10 to 12) and Matabeleland South (from 10 to 12), for example,” Zesn says.
“Further examination of Zec’s report shows that Zec applied this formula inconsistently across provinces. For example, in Bulawayo, Zec divided the total number of voters in the province (270 938) by the national minimum number of registered voters permissible in terms of the constitution (22 112) and rounded off the result to the nearest whole number resulting in 12 constituencies being allocated to the province regardless of its population of registered voters. This gave the province the same number of constituencies as allocated to it in 2007/8. In Harare, the Commission chose to divide the total number of registered voters (952 102) by 29 (number of Constituencies Harare was allocated in 2008) ‘to ascertain whether the average voter population for a constituency in the Province adhered to the constitutional thresholds.’
This approach and inconsistent in the application of the formula by Commission had the effect of taking back the recently completed delimitation exercise to 2007/8.
“It is not immediately clear, however, how other provinces like Manicaland, Mashonaland Central, East, West, Midlands and others maintained the same number of constituencies as allocated to them in 2007/8. While all constituencies fall within Zec’s calculated range of 22 112 to 33 169, Harare has the largest constituencies by voter population compared to all other provinces. For example, most of the constituencies in Bulawayo, Masvingo and Matabeleland South are close to the minimum threshold while 25 out of 30 constituencies allocated to Harare have at least 31 000 registered voters.”
Zec presented the report to President Emmerson Mnangagwa in December 2022 and it was tabled before parliament on 6 January 2023, by the leader of government business, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs minister Ziyambi Ziyambi for consideration.
Consequently, a 13-member adhoc parliamentary committee was tasked to embark on an analysis of the report.
The report is back with the commission for consideration of all inputs from parliament and they will release their final report.
Zesn joins many civil society organisations, politicians of the ruling party and opposition alike who have been clamouring for Zec to consider issues raised by the ad hoc committee of Parliament.