THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec)’s ZW$2,3 billion (US$24,7 million) budget allocation for 2021 is an assault on democracy, as it is inadequate to allow the electoral body to carry out its functions, an independent election watchdog has said.
Finance minister Mthuli Ncube made the allocation in his 2021 annual budget despite Zec, having indicated it needed at least ZW$12,4 billion (US$148 million) to fully perform its duties.
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) said this undercuts democracy, as the measly budget allocation militates against Zec’s capacity to administer election-related processes.
“Zesn is of the view that the move by government to leave a variance of 81% between Zec’s proposed budget of ZW$12,4 billion and the actual allocation of ZW$2,3 billion further weakens democracy in the country given that, a few months ago, by-elections were indefinitely suspended on account of the Covid-19 pandemic despite the fact that in recent months many countries, including in Africa, have been holding elections under similar circumstances,” Zesn said.
Of the ZW$2,3 billion allocated to Zec, ZW$1,7 billion (US$21,7 million) is meant to fund the delimitation exercise, which will create new electoral boundaries ahead of the next general elections.
The last delimitation exercise was done ahead of the 2008 elections, conducted in terms of the old constitution and based on the Registrar-Generals’ voters roll.
The opposition then described the exercise as biased in favour of Zanu PF.
Parliament’s portfolio committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs has also decried the ZW$1,7444 billion budget for delimitation as it estimates that the exercise requires as much as ZW$8,6 billion.
“In general, the delimitation of electoral boundaries is a challenging technical endeavour that is usually lengthy and costly,” Zesn further said.
“There is therefore need for the government to uphold the tenets of democracy through availing adequate resources to enable the holding of all key electoral processes in-between general elections and during general elections that should be held every five years as stipulated by the supreme law of the country.”
Government in June gazetted the Census and Statistics Amendment Bill of 2020 which seeks to amend the Census and Statistics Act (Chapter 10:29) to allow for the delimitation exercise to be conducted well before the 2023 polls.
The Bill seeks to ensure that the delimitation exercise is conducted using census statistics as required by section 161 (1) of the constitution and not the voters’ roll, as has been the case.