By NQOBANI NDLOVU
ELECTION watchdog, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn), has called for the amendment of the Electoral Act to allow the public and other stakeholders to participate in the delimitation exercise ahead of the 2023 elections, which it says would promote transparency.
The amendments must also allow for the handling of boundary disputes, Zesn noted in its report titled Citizen Perceptions on Delimitation of Electoral Constituencies and Wards in Zimbabwe, following a research on the issue between January to March 2019.
The report notes gaps in the provisions on the handling boundary disputes and involvement of the public and other stakeholders in the delimitation exercise.
Zesn argued that public participation was necessary to enhance transparency, public trust, confidence and credibility of the process after the last delimitation exercise was described
by the opposition and other stakeholders as flawed in favour of the ruling Zanu PF party.
“The Zec (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) should ensure that the public participates in the delimitation of electoral boundaries. This can be done by putting in place mechanisms, for
example, public hearings that promote public participation provide for mechanisms to allow for the submission of a memorandum, both print and electronic, use of social and mainstream
media,” the Zesn said in its report.
“This will go a long way in building public confidence and trust. The Electoral Act should be amended to incorporate provisions that promote the public participation of citizens. The
legal review will entail enacting provisions that facilitate the participation of citizens and key electoral stakeholders in the process.”
The last delimitation exercise was held in 2008. Opposition parties queried the outcome, arguing it exposed glaring gerrymandering in favour of the ruling Zanu PF.
According to section 161 of the country’s Constitution adopted in 2013, electoral boundaries must be delimitated once every 10 years after a population census.
“A comprehensive roadmap on delimitation should be publicised well on time. This will allow other stakeholders, for example, civil society organisations to have oversight on the
delimitation. The roadmap will enhance the transparency of the process.
“Experiences from the past have shown that aggrieved political parties perceive that their concerns on boundary demarcations were not addressed due to lack of effective dispute
resolution mechanisms, either in the law or by the electoral commission,” Zesn noted.
Zec has since indicated plans to approach Parliament, seeking amendment of the laws so that the electoral body does not to wait for the 2022 population census to undertake a delimitation exercise.