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Delimitation report: What was all the noise about?

Editorials
President Emmerson Mnangagwa receives the parliamentary ad-hoc committee report from Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda at State House

AFTER weeks of drama surrounding the delimitation report produced by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), it turns out all the noise was only for show because everyone else’s opinion counts for naught as far as constituency and ward boundaries are concerned: the commission and its “handlers” will do exactly as they please and everybody else can sod off.

By any account, the delimitation report which Zec chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba submitted to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, and who in turn forwarded to Parliament, is defective.

Legislators, who were on a festive holiday break, were hauled back to come and debate the report, and one would assume their input would have consequence.

Parliament’s ad hoc committee certainly made some observation on the delimitation report.

“The committee noted that in the spirit of promoting and observing the principles of good governance that encompass transparency, justice and fairness, the report should have provided justifications for collapsing constituencies and wards,” the chairperson of the Parliamentary ad hoc committee Pupurai Togarepi of Zanu PF said.

“The Constitution, in section 68, provides for administrative conduct or decisions that are both substantially and procedurally fair. Section 9 of the Constitution talks about good governance wherein commissions and other bodies established by or under the Constitution should carry out their functions conscientiously, fairly and honestly. The collapsing of constituencies and wards affects the legitimate expectations of stakeholders who may be adversely affected by that decision.”

According to the august House, the report ignores the recently held population census, which was supposed to inform some of the constituency boundaries. 

In other words, the Zec delimitation was just an exercise in gerrymandering without bothering to explain the formula used to draw the new wards and constituencies.

The report was so bad that some Zec commissioners disowned it, leaving Chigumba isolated. But, the fact that she is still standing tells its own story.

In fact, she will have the last laugh.

The Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda, who submitted the recommendations and analysis of the preliminary Zec delimitation report, which were made by the ad hoc committee to Mnangagwa at State House in Harare on Thursday, made it clear what would happen next.

“Once Zec has received the report from Parliament, they will look at it and hopefully digest it accordingly, and thereafter they will produce a final report which they will hand over to His Excellency the President. After 14 days of that handover, the President will gazette the final report,” said Mudenda at the handover.

It means that the report would not be subject to scrutiny by the lawmakers again before Mnangagwa gazettes it, and whatever changes Zec makes will be final, if the President approves.

Justice Chigumba may or may not accede to the recommendations made by the lawmakers and they will not get to see the final report or affect its gazetting.

The final report, which is supposed to be gazetted by President Mnangagwa, becomes a matter between the beleaguered Zec chairperson and her principal.

We will not kid ourselves and pretend that the electoral commission will operate independently on such a politically sensitive issue.

So we ask, what was all the noise about?

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