BY BLESSED MHLANGA
JUSTICE minister Ziyambi Ziyambi has in principle reportedly agreed to withdraw one of the 27 clauses government was pushing for as part of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 2) Bill, which is currently being debated in Parliament.
Speaking at an NGO Human Rights Forum debate on the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 2) Bill recently, lawyer and legislator Kucaca Phulu, said Ziyambi had conceded that delinking delimitation from the census would not work.
Government wanted to allow the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to delimitate constituencies without having to wait for the census as required by the Constitution. This would have allowed boundaries of constituencies to be drawn using the number of registered voters.
“The good news is that I personally had a discussion with the Minister of Justice as he passed the new Census Act. So we now have a new Census Act and that new Census Act now allows the government to have the census before the 2023 election and that is, in fact, what is going to happen. I now happen to know even in Parliament he has conceded that point on delimitation and he is no longer going to be insisting on that amendment, that amendment is not going to happen,” Phulu said.
Phulu said it was important to note that drawing boundaries on the strength of registered voters was not sufficient because legislators do not only represent those who register to vote, but also the under-aged and those who shun the electoral process.
“As we vote for Members of Parliament and those who represent us at the end of the day we need all the constituencies to be equal and balanced to vote. An MP does not only represent voters, in fact, if you go into the Constitution, the section that talks about delimitation, section 161 actually says one of the things you actually need to look at as you do delimitation, yes you look at the number of voters, but you must look at the population. It’s a requirement for you to look at the population, look at the geographical features, and, therefore, it is imperative that you must have the latest data in terms of your population,” Phulu said.
Electoral expert, Tawanda Chimhini who leads the Elections Resource Centre (ERC) said there was need to ensure that delimitation stops being confined to the number of registered voters, but the broader population.
“When you have 210 constituencies there must be equality of the vote, so the debate is whether delimitation must be on the basis of the population or it must be on registered voters and the argument has been the people who determine representation are people who have reached the age of majority. But the argument is that is it sufficient to confine the boundary drawing to just people who can vote. When it comes to representation, there are issues of people who are not eligible to vote,” Chimhini said.
There are fears that delimitation which looks at the number of registered voters will see Zanu PF strongholds gaining more constituencies while urban areas, particularly in Bulawayo, will be left with fewer constituencies.