ZIMBABWE is heading towards another disputed election should the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) adopt the discredited delimitation report without correcting the glaring shortcomings, analysts have warned.
Zec is under pressure to finalise the delimitation process — which is conducted every 10 years to reconfigure constituency and ward boundaries — ahead of polls this year, in view of tight deadines.
The preliminary report given to President Emmerson Mnangagwa by Zec chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba has been roundly criticised for its shortcomings, which civil society says make it irredeemable.
Among other errors highlighted by stakeholders is that Zec may have used the old Lancaster House constitution to delineate boundaries which has seen other constituencies exceeding the required population threshold.
In other instances, some wards have been interchanged and moved despite their having a population that falls within the stipulated threshold, raising gerrymandering fears.
Gerrymandering refers to the manipulation of electoral constituency boundaries to favour one party.
A report by Team Pachedu released last week shows that Zec may have unnecessarily reconfigured electoral boundaries in favour of the ruling Zanu PF, reducing the opposition’s chances of winning in its urban and rural dominions.
Civil society says Zec has to act fast to avoid reverting to the 2007-8 delimitation boundaries, as this may be disastrous, with serious implications for the equality of the vote.
Political analysts say the delimitation process may fuel rebellion should the preliminary report be adopted with uncorrected shortcomings, which may also lead to a disputed electoral result.
“The danger of an election based on a faulty and contested delimitation report (raises) questions on the legitimacy of the electoral outcomes and fears of disenfranchisement of as many people who may be lumped with communities whom they share nothing with as well as gerrymandering of election boundaries in order to neutralise the opposition in its strongholds which may lead to questions on representation,” says political analyst Rashweat Mukundu.
“So, you may see that the members of Parliament may not get the support, and they may not get the cooperation from communities, because the communities may feel that they are not representing their interests, even if they may have won in those constituencies.”
Therefore, he said settling the errors would create a consensus that is likely to bring violence and discontent upon announcement of results of the general election. In 2018, opposition members took to the streets, protesting a delay in the release of election results.
During the protests, the army gunned down six protesters, whose families are yet to receive compensation from the government.
“So, what is needed at the preparatory stage is to have consensus on the delimitation report which then builds on the consensus and legitimacy of the electoral outcomes,” Mukundu said. Other analysts say the delimitation process may also increase conflict among MPs who are set to lose their constituencies.
“In terms of the law, Veritas (lawyer grouping) said the process is illegal as it violates the constitution, meaning that they may need to go back to the drawing board and redo the process.
“If they do, they may fail to do the process in time, or they may do a shoddy job, so the process could be finished. Chances are that the sitting members of Parliament will want the existing constituencies to remain. But I do not see Zec doing that as it will be in violation of the law,” said Wellington Mbofana, director of the Civic Education Network (CivNET).
PVO Bill to increase violence
He also said violence is likely to continue unabated with the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Bill passing through Senate.
The Bill seeks to shrink the civic space, while snooping into operations of organisations that are registered as private voluntary entities. Some of the organisations have been keeping an eye on the upholding of constitutional rights.
“I think that is a huge one. Most of the organisations that are likely to be affected are the ones doing the elections work. Without these ones, there is likely to be a free-for-all in terms of electoral violence, as the organisations are also involved in monitoring,” he said.
In January, a video circulating on social media showed elderly CCC members in Murehwa being flogged by suspected Zanu PF youths on accusations of convening an opposition meeting. Zanu PF has since distanced itself from the violence, claiming that it was stage-managed.
Also last month, 26 CCC members were arrested in Budiriro, Harare, for attending an internal meeting at a private residence. Mbofana says such acts of violence are likely to increase, as the authorities clip the wings of human rights watchdog organisations.
“It is not the usual humanitarian organisations that are mainly being targeted. Those ones can still go ahead operating, but at the same time, others can be worried, especially if they fail to submit demands being asked for by politicians,” Mbofana said.
According to Transparency international Zimbabwe (TIZ), an organisation promoting accountability, conflict is likely to increase, enhancing autocracy. Authoritarian regimes make use of coercion and force to supress dissent.