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Zec in quandary over delimitation exercise

by Staff reporter
22 Aug 2019 at 07:41hrs | Views
THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) is in quandary over the delimitation exercise as the Constitution stipulates that it must be conducted after the Census in 2022 leaving little time to prepare for the 2023 general elections.

In an interview in Bulawayo on Tuesday, Zec chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba said the commission will not be able to complete the delimitation exercise in less than a year if they have to wait for the Census.

Justice Chigumba was in Bulawayo for the commission's national strategic workshop to discuss, among other issues, the delimitation exercise.

"Realistically speaking, we can't complete the delimitation exercise before the elections if we wait for the National Census. The Constitution stipulates that we can only delimit after a Census.  

"Now the Census is due in 2022, we all know that it won't take less than 12 months to be complete from experience in previous censuses, so that means we'll probably get to 2023 before the Census is even finished and it would be unconstitutional for the elections not to take place in 2023," said Justice Chigumba.

She said the commission was deliberating on changing the Constitution by divorcing the Census from the delimitation exercise.

"If it necessitates a change in the Constitution, we have to decide what we want that provision in the Constitution to be replaced with. In other words if we're not going to use the number of people born in Zimbabwe in a Census, we have to come up with a different criteria to use.

"Maybe we could use the number of registered voters as a replacement criteria and if we do that we have to come up with an appropriate scientific mode of calculation that we should use. These are the things we're discussing and introspecting on as a commission," said Justice Chigumba.

She said at the moment, the commission was discussing a formula along the lines of the number of registered voters, which is about 5,6 million, divided by 210 constituencies entrenched in the Constitution.  

"That will give us a figure of 24 000. We then have to decide if we can use that figure to delimit constituencies to say each constituency needs to have a minimum number of a certain number of registered voters in order to attain a certain number of seats. If we do that, will it have a domino effect on other provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act? As you know in Zimbabwe it's not compulsory to register to vote. This is what we'll continue deliberating on and we'll come up with an agreed position as a commission," said Justice Chigumba.

The Zec chairperson said the commission has a strategic plan that is due to expire in 2020 and as a result of the post-election reviews, it is now coming up with a new strategic plan that will take it to 2024. She said the purpose of the strategic workshop, attended by Zec officials from all the country's 10 provinces, was to discuss internally what the commission should be doing up to 2024.

"A decision has been taken that we ought to treat elections as a cycle not an event. In the past we would wait until a year or two until the elections and come up with a road map to the election.  

"Now we're coming up with a roadmap to the election and the year after. We're also coming up with budgets to fund those activities that we intend to do until 2024," said Justice Chigumba.

She said chief among the issues they were discussing is setting up the roadmap and the time frames for electoral law reforms as well as delimitation of constituency boundaries.

"We plan to publish the roadmap. We did the national stakeholder conference in Nyanga and the report that came from that has now been uploaded on our website just to let our stakeholders know what came out of that conference. Similarly whatever strategic plan we come up with during this workshop will also be published via the website and other platforms," said Justice Chigumba.

She urged Zimbabweans to register to vote so that they're not affected by constituency boundaries when the delimitation exercise is complete. Justice Chigumba said this will also help Zec to have an accurate reflection of what criteria to use to delimit constituency boundaries in future if the law is changed along those lines. She said if a constituency has less than 20 000 voters it will be downsized.

Source - chronicle