BY NQOBANI NDLOVU/SILAS NKALA
THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has bemoaned the low turnout at its ongoing mobile voter registration exercise in Bulawayo, warning that this would cost the city about three constituencies.
Bulawayo has been an opposition stronghold for years.
Independent electoral watchdog, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn), in a recent research on delimitation, warned that Bulawayo, Matabeleland North and South would lose some constituencies in the next delimitation exercise.
Bulawayo with 257 924 registered voters, Matabeleland North (338 593) and Matabeleland South (263 690) would likely lose an average of two constituencies each, according to Zesn findings, as the figures for registered voters fell far short of the minimum threshold.
Other provinces such as Harare with 899 333 registered voters would likely see an increase from 29 to 33 constituencies, while Mashonaland Central (531 310) will likely move from the current 18 to 20 constituencies.
Zec Bulawayo provincial elections officer Innocent Ncube warned that the city would lose constituencies if there was no change in numbers at its mobile voter registration centres.
“We are bringing the service closer to the people to capture as many people as we can, because we have low registered voters…with the current voter population,
Bulawayo would likely lose as much as three constituencies,” Ncube said.
“Unfortunately, the response from the general public has been very poor. We will engage the councillors, residents’ associations and political parties to assist us in preaching the gospel of the need to come and register to vote in the ongoing voter registration exercise.”
Zimbabwe last carried a delimitation exercise in 2007 ahead of the 2008 harmonised elections. According to section 161 of the country’s Constitution adopted in 2013, electoral boundaries must be delimitated once every 10 years – in 2023 – after a population census.
Opposition parties are urging their supporters to go and register as voters, while the Thokozani Khupe-led MDC-T blamed the low response to the voter registration exercise on Zec.
“Zec is at fault. Zec was supposed to undertake an extensive awareness programme about this exercise. I personally did not know Zec was conducting this exercise, and I am sure if you do a survey, you will be surprised that the majority also don’t know about this exercise,” Abednico Bhebhe, the MDC-T chairperson, said.
Zapu spokesperson Iphithule Maphosa, also expressed worry over the poor voter turnout at the Zec registration exercise. “This spells bad news for our region. Not only do we lose representation in the legislature, but we also lose out on a significant percentage share of the national resources that are centrally allocated, with voter registration as a determinant.”
Zanu PF national deputy secretary for administration in the youth assembly Mabutho Moyo encouraged people in Bulawayo and Matabeleland South to register to vote.
“The fewer constituencies we have, the lesser resources that we get through the Constituency Development Fund (CDF). So, it will be a great disadvantage for Bulawayo to lose some constituencies,” Moyo said.
“My message, especially to the young people, is that let’s register to vote in our numbers to avoid losing constituencies.”
Habakkuk Trust chief executive officer Dumisani Nkomo said people should take voter registration seriously “and not complain afterwards of marginalisation”.
Church and Civic Society Joint Forum national organiser Abigail Mupambi said civic education was key, “so that people don’t waste time majoring in the minors.
The problems we are facing today, especially on little or inadequate resources allocated to Matabeleland are underpinned on such processes”.
Under the regulations, a constituency must have a minimum of 21 644 registered voters.