Delimitation report: Zec holds the aces

Zec chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba

THE divided Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has been tasked to consider recommendations by Parliament’s ad hoc committee on the delimitation report, but the final draft will not be subject to scrutiny by lawmakers, leaving its beleaguered chairperson holding all the aces.

Yesterday, Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda submitted the recommendations and analysis of the preliminary Zec delimitation report, which were made by the ad hoc committee to President Emmerson Mnangagwa at State House in Harare.

“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.

Speaking after receiving the report, Mnangagwa told journalists that he will be returning the delimitation report to Justice Chigumba for a relook.

“So, in terms of the Constitution, I must hand over this preliminary report to Zec within 14 days, the 14th day is tomorrow (today) and so tomorrow I will be handing this to the Zec,” Mnangagwa said.

Some Zec commissioners have distanced themselves from the report which Justice Chigumba handed to Mnangagwa two weeks ago.

Zec is expected to deliver the final delimitation report by February 26.

The preliminary delimitation report was blasted by both Zanu PF and opposition legislators in Parliament.

Lawyer David Coltart tweeted: “There is no doubt that Zanu PF working with Zec has got the delimitation all stitched up.  The concerns of certain Zanu PF MPs will be addressed, and Bulawayo will probably lose more seats, and Harare won’t get any more. The whole exercise is unlawful, unconstitutional and farcical.”

Meanwhile, Zec yesterday said it will only avail the electronic voters roll after putting measures in place to ensure that it would not be formatted or tampered with.

This comes after statisticians; Team Pachedu uncovered several irregularities in the voters roll and poked holes into the electoral body’s information and technology systems.

Responding to an application at the High Court by Project Vote 263 where the data analysts demanded the release of the voters roll in electronic format, Zec chief elections officer Utoile Silaigwana said they were still working on tightening their electoral database to avoid being misused.

“It must be borne in mind that section 21(3) of the Electoral Act indicates that the roll requested is to be provided within reasonable time, what constitutes a reasonable time is a matter that is inherently contextual.  Where the respondent is grappling with cyber security issues viz. the electronic voters roll, reasonable time is naturally defined in terms of the respondent being able to shore up the security of the roll before release to the public,” Silaigwana said.

“In terms of the proviso to section 21(7) of the Electorate Act, where a voter’s roll is to be furnished in electronic form in terms, inter alia, of section 21(3), the roll may be formatted so as to prevent it being altered or otherwise tampered with and the respondent can impose reasonable conditions on the provision of the roll to prevent it from being used for commercial or other purposes unconnected with an election.”

Silaigwana accused Team Pachedu of manipulating the electronic copy of the voter’s roll to misinform people.

“Team Pachedu, which is using and manipulating an electronic copy of the voters roll, has been flooding social media with misinformation about the voter’s roll thus putting at risk the integrity and reputation of the respondent and by extension putting into question, albeit without foundation, efficacy of our electoral systems,” he said.

“The statute mandates that the respondent safeguard any data it holds from misuse.  Thus, what the respondent has done viz the applicant’s request for the electronic roll, is not consistent with section 62 of the Constitution but in fact furthers the ends by complying with the dictates of the legislation made pursuant to section 62(4) and the broader dictates of the declaration of the rights in the Constitution.”

Zec justified the high cost of the hard copy of the voters’ roll, at US$187 000, saying it was aligned to the Constitution. 

“As to the cost of the roll in hard copy it must be appreciated that cost is set by law, Statutory Instrument 145 of 2022, the Electoral (Voter Registration) (Amendment) Regulations, 2022.  The applicant has not taken issue with this Statutory Instrument or sought to have it invalidated for the cost of the roll that it prescribes.”

At the Constitutional Court yesterday, Chief Justice Luke Malaba dismissed a matter brought by Zanu PF supporter, Tonderai Chidawa who was seeking to force Zec to restart the delimitation process.

He also wanted the apex court to nullify proceedings that took place in Parliament since a preliminary delimitation report was tabled on January 6 for lack of compliance with the Constitution.

Through his lawyer, Lovemore Madhuku, Chidawa wanted the matter to be heard on an urgent basis.

But Malaba said the matter was not urgent and must follow normal processes.

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