THE Electoral Act must be amended to allow the participation of the public and other stakeholders during delimitation to ensure transparency, an independent election watchdog has said.
BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
Zimbabwe last carried out a delimitation exercise — creation of new electoral boundaries — in 2007 amid accusations that the process lacked transparency, public participation and favoured the ruling Zanu PF party.
According to section 161 of Constitution adopted in 2013, electoral boundaries must be delimitated once every 10 years, following a population census.
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) said the country cannot afford to have another contested delimitation process, and called for a participatory process, involving the public and Civic Society Organisations (CSOs).
“The Electoral Act should incorporate provisions that promote public participation. The (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) Zec should put in place regulations for accreditation of CSOs to observe delimitation to enhance transparency,” Zesn said in its position paper.
“Zec should share with the public and stakeholders a detailed and comprehensive roadmap which will go a long way in ensuring public participation, building confidence and trust in the process, increase transparency and credibility of the process.”
Zesn urged authorities to de-link the next delimitation from the population census to give Zec ample time to conduct the process to address concerns of various stakeholders.
“Zec should release the delimitation timetable at the earliest opportunity to enable civil society actors to engage in provision of civic education to complement Zec’s civic education programme,” Zesn added.
“Provisions for the mandatory enforcements of timelines or durations should be introduced into legislation to ensure that the required boundary delimitation processes take place in time. The legal framework should provide for conflict resolution mechanisms in cases of boundary disputes.
These mechanisms should include specific time frames for handling complaints and appeals.”
Zesn said Zimbabwe can draw lessons from Zambia, where delimitation is completed a year before elections to provide adequate time for civic and voter education on any changes to electoral boundaries.