THE outcome of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) constituency delimitation exercise ahead of the 2008 House of Assembly elections is biased i
n favour of Zanu PF and reveals glaring gerrymandering by the electoral body.
From the 210 seats to be contested, ZEC allocated 143 constituencies to communal lands and the remaining 67 to urban and peri-urban areas.
The ruling party has since Independence in 1980 received its main support from rural areas, and according to analysts it was most probable that Zanu PF would win a two-thirds majority in the polls next year.
Apart from being skewed in favour of the ruling party, the delimitation process did not take into consideration the on-going Sadc-initiated dialogue between the MDC and Zanu PF.
In the talks, the opposition is pushing for a reconstituted ZEC that would institute a fresh voter registration process and delimit constituencies thereafter.
The MDC argues that it supported the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Number 18 in Parliament on the understanding that the ZEC would be reconstituted and become independent.
The opposition further argued that the commission’s composition was a scandal as it was staffed with “former military personnel, Zanu PF functionaries and individuals whose identities are suspect”.
ZEC chairman Justice George Chiweshe last week announced the number of House of Assembly constituencies in the country’s 10 provinces that saw Matabeleland North having 13 constituencies, Mashonaland West 22, Matabeleland South 13, Bulawayo 12, Harare 29, Midlands 28, Manicaland 26, Mashonaland Central 18, Mashonaland East 23 and Masvingo 26.
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) said it should be compulsory and prudent for the ZEC to give political parties and other interested groups the opportunity to make meaningful representations about constituency boundaries redrawing to avoid controversies.
“The commission should then have the obligation to take these representations properly into account before finalising its work on drawing new boundaries,” Zesn said. “This should apply particularly to the extensive changes that will be necessitated by the large increase in numbers of seats in the Lower House brought about by the recent constitutional amendments.”
Zesn said the delimitation should not have been rushed and there must be ample opportunity for objections to be taken into account.
“It would be useful if the commission made public the main criteria it took into account when arriving at its proposals for new boundaries,” the election organisation said.
According to the ZEC, it determined the constituencies in the provinces after dividing the number of registered voters that stood at 5 612 464 by the 210 seats to get an average of 26 726,02 voters per constituency.
After rounding off to the nearest whole number, the figures representing the average number of constituencies that should be delimited in each province added up to 211 constituencies instead of the required 210.
To resolve the issue, the commission adopted two methods to get the desired results.
The decimals of the figures representing the average number of constituencies per province were arranged in their descending order. Only provinces with decimal figures of five and above were first considered for rounding off to the nearest whole number.
Seven provinces had decimal figures of five and above. However, if all were to be rounded off to the nearest whole number the effect would have been the same. Thus only those provinces with decimal figures of six and above were rounded off to the nearest 10 in order to get rid of the extra constituency.
Political analyst Michael Mhike said the delimitation of the constituencies was not perfect given that there was poor publicity of the voter registration exercise that took place recently.
“Moreover the registration was biased in favour of perceived Zanu PF strongholds,” Mhike said. “The registration was done in such a way that there will be more constituencies in rural areas where the ruling party claims to have its majority support.”
The analysts said in the 2005 parliamentary elections, the ZEC headed by Justice Chiweshe, redrew constituency boundaries of a number of constituencies and it was alleged that these boundaries were redrawn in a manner that gave the ruling party an electoral advantage.
“Certain constituencies dominated by Zanu PF like Gokwe were split to create individual constituencies without any justification of demographic changes,” Zesn said. “On the other hand, some urban constituencies, which were the stronghold of MDC support, were redrawn to incorporate abutting rural areas where Zanu PF has support.”
For instance, in Mashonaland West the new constituency of Manyame was deliberately created to give Zanu PF a better electoral chance in the constituency.
The MDC faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai has since dismissed the delimitation exercise as a Zanu PF ploy to rig next year’s polls.
“The MDC believes that the ZEC, as currently constituted, has become a weapon to puncture people’s confidence in electoral processes,” party spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said. “Delimitation as a process to enhance a free and fair poll has been hijacked to suit Zanu PF’s interest against the spirit of the dialogue process.”
The party argued that under Constitutional Amendment Number 18, only a reconstituted ZEC should engage in a fresh exercise of voter registration and delimitation.
“It is ironic that before the conclusion of the talks, Zanu PF is Nicodemously and nocturnally imposing its will and antics in an attempt to evade the obvious people’s harsh verdict in 2008,” Chamisa said. “The MDC calls on the region, African Union and the international community to put pressure on the government to respect the will of the people.
“They (people) want independent electoral institutions and electoral management bodies that guarantee the safety of their vote. They are not demanding the moon. They simply want the regime to adhere to the Sadc guidelines on the conduct of free and fair elections which demand that a truly independent body must run and manage elections,” Chamisa added.
However, Chiewshe said the ZEC was properly instituted to carry out the delimitation exercise and dismissed suggestions that the commission was an appendage of the ruling party.The High Court judge denied MDC claims that the commission had used a flawed voters’ roll to draw up the constituencies, adding that the opposition did not provide evidence to that effect.
“The MDC wrote to us with that complaint and we have replied to them in confidence. However, there will be complaints, some valid and some not,” Chiweshe said.
“Sometimes people make allegations without giving facts and evidence. On the face of it we don’t see that the voters roll is in a shambles. I am not saying the voters roll is perfect, but it is credible.”