THE report by the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) on Zimbabwe’s general elections has questioned the credibility of the judiciary’s ruling on the delimitation process, which undermined the integrity of the electoral process.
The delimitation process was marred by accusations of gerrymandering in Zanu PF’s favour.
Gerrymandering is the practice of manipulating the boundaries of electoral districts to give one political party an unfair advantage over its rivals.
The process was largely flawed, with critics denouncing the delimitation report as unconstitutional after the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) retained the flaws flagged in the preliminary delimitation report presented to President Emmerson Mnangagwa in December.
The report also resulted in divisions among Zec commissioners, with seven of them speaking out against the delimitation process and outcome, effectively clashing with Zec chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba, leading to the eventual removal of Commissioner Jasper Mangwana as Zec spokesperson.
Chigumba allocated the role of spokesperson to herself, her deputy Rodney Kiwa and chief elections officer Utloile Silaigwana.
The Sadc Election Observer Mission (SEOM) report also highlighted that while the courts dismissed legal challenges against the delimitation report of 2022, questions still remained on the constitutionality of the exercise.
“In its Delimitation Report of 2022, the Zec rightly states that ‘the Constitution recognises the impracticability of having equal number of voters in each constituency by allowing the Commission to depart from this requirement within a stipulated margin. In this case, the Constitution in section 161(6) stipulates that . . . no constituency may have more than 20% more fewer registered voters than other such constituencies’,” reads the SEOM report, which has now been handed over to Sadc.
“The constitution in section 161(6) a-f also lists factors that need to be considered when delimiting since they are important during the exercise. However, the Zec goes on to also state that, ‘Based on the provision of section 161(6) the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission then calculated the 20% deviation from the national average voter registration expected in each constituency which was 27 640’.
“This yielded a deviation of 5 528 voters. Since the average number of registered voters was regarded as stable benchmark against which delimitation of constituencies was conducted, the deviation figure was added to the national average to determine the maximum number of registered voters that a constituency delimited would contain i.e., 33 168.”
Sadc said that the delimitation report had elements of the Lancaster constitution, which is inconsistent with the constitution of 2013.
“The Mission noted that the average number of voters per constituency is inconsistent with the provision of section 161(6) of the new Constitution adopted in 2013. The word ‘average’ appears in section 61A (6) of the old Constitution of Zimbabwe under which it was permissible to calculate the minimum and maximum permissible number of voters per constituency by using the national average, the baseline,” reads the report.
“The word ‘average’ does not exist as in section 161(6) of the new Constitution, which deals with the same subject matter. The difference between section 61A (6) and section 161(6) of the old and the new constitutions, respectively, is far from being merely technical.”
It added: “In the new constitution, and in the context of section 161(6), the maximum deviation is 20% of the voters registered in the constituencies. The new constitution uses actual constituency by constituency registered voter population, not the national average number of constituency voter population, or calculate the permissible deviation from the requirement that constituencies must have an equal number of voters.”
The delimitation report has also been under fire for making calculations using the old constitution, which was not correct in the final report gazetted by Mnangagwa.
“Mathematically, the two methods produce very different results and affect the equality of the vote concerning the elections to Parliament,” reads the report.
“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.”
Sadc also questioned the independence of the judiciary, amid indications of patronage and interference by the government.
“In view of their significance in the event of legal challenges in the electoral process, some stakeholders expressed the view that the Government compromises the judiciary. A key justification for this reception was information received from these stakeholders that the judiciary recently received large financial and material incentives, which the stakeholders viewed as an attempt by the Government to buy the loyalty and allegiance of the judiciary,”