The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) contends that the delimitation exercise is vital for the integrity of the electoral process.
The electoral body said the delimitation of electoral boundaries into wards and constituencies is a critical aspect of constitutional states that follow the principle of representative democracy.
According to ZESN, the size of wards and constituencies can determine election outcomes, and this makes delimitation a contested political space. Between October and December 2022, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) commenced the Boundary Delimitation process of demarcating electoral boundaries in Zimbabwe.
The last delimitation exercise was conducted in 2007 in preparation for the 2008 harmonised elections. In this regard, certain fundamental changes had to be expected for the 2022 delimitation process in relation to boundaries, size of wards and constituencies, and population figures.
The delimitation process takes place once every ten years and is done after the conducting of the Population census. A public debate ensued upon ZEC releasing the Preliminary 2022 Delimitation Exercise Report. This study adds to the public debate by making a critical legal and statistical analysis of the ZEC 2022 Preliminary Delimitation Report.
“ZESN believes in the integrity of the electoral process and regards the delimitation exercise and its outputs as fundamental to the achievement of free, fair, and credible elections.
“To this extent, delimitation exercise is no longer a closed-door process conducted by hired technocrats whose reports are beyond the public eye. A scrutiny and analysis of the delimitation exercise and the Delimitation Report are in the public interest as it promotes transparency, accountability, citizen information, and institutional integrity,” ZESN said in a statement.
Accordingly, in view of the observations made in this Report, ZESN makes the following recommendations:
- ZEC must expeditiously and comprehensively address the fundamental flaws pointed out in its Preliminary Report so that the Final Report to be gazetted by the President is a true reflection of voter representativeness. What this implies is that ZEC must not ignore the several flaws and inconsistencies pointed out by stakeholders, including a special committee of Parliament. In specific terms, ZEC must take into account and consider recommendations from the stakeholder consultative process.
- ZEC must develop Delimitation Regulations and submit these to Parliament for debate so that several issues not covered in the Constitution are comprehensively provided for and addressed. These issues include the exact meaning and scope of principles for delimitation, the nature of stakeholder consultations, protest or legal redress mechanisms, the meaning of processes such as geo-referencing; digitizing and ground-truthing.
- In November 2022, ZESN developed model Delimitation Regulations for submission to ZEC. The Regulations are comprehensive and must be considered by ZEC since they reflect the constitutional standards, but give blood and flesh to the bare bones of delimitation in the Constitution. Further, ZESN drafted a Comprehensive Electoral Amendment Bill and submitted it to the Parliament of Zimbabwe for consideration in the amendment of the Electoral Act. This model electoral law has comprehensive provisions on delimitation that are guided by international best practices, including the SADC Principles and Guidelines for Governing Democratic Elections and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance. Both the model Delimitation Regulations and the model Electoral Bill are available upon request.
- ZEC is urged not to use and adopt the 2007-2008 delimitation report for the 2023 general elections. The 2008 Report is based on old data, and cannot in any way reflect current voting patterns and representativeness. It is our submission that ZEC has the capacity to correct and address the identified errors and mistakes in time for the gazetting of the Final Report for the 2023 general elections.
- To instill public confidence and trust in the delimitation process, ZEC should make available the electronic voters’ roll to enable stakeholders to compare the data used by ZEC in compiling the Preliminary Delimitation Report, to the statistics in the voters’ roll.
- In the future, ZEC must hold the delimitation exercise guided by final census reports, not the preliminary reports, which are yet to be validated. The Constitution does not explicitly require ZEC to use census data, but states that the delimitation must occur ‘as soon as possible after a population census’. Preliminary reports often contain errors and mistakes that are corrected upon validation and prior to the production of the Final Report. The preliminary census report may not lead to results that reflect reality, thereby distorting representativeness.