Zanu PF clash over new constituencies
A SHOWDOWN is looming between Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) and President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF
party over the drawing up of new constituency boundaries.
The opposition party
this week rejected new constituency demarcations announced by the government-appointed
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).
The electoral commission
last Thursday announced new boundaries for parliamentary constituencies
for the country’s 10 provinces, openly disregarding demands by
MDC to suspend the exercise until the conclusion of ongoing talks between
the two parties under South African President Thabo Mbeki’s mediation.
Giving the clearest signal that the opposition party and the electoral
commission are on a collision course, MDC spokesman and Kuwadzana MP
Nelson Chamisa distanced the opposition party from the delimitation
exercise by the ZEC, describing it as a scandal.
“What we are witnessing from ZEC right now is a major scandal
that has shocked all Zimbabweans who are looking forward to a free and
fair election next year. These are senseless shenanigans by Zanu PF
in its attempt to rig next year’s harmonised elections”,
in key presidential and parliamentary elections next March. The elections
will be held concurrently for the first time in the country’s
history after both the MDC and Zanu PF voted for a constitutional amendment.
The amendment also increased the number of parliamentary seats from
the current 120 to 210.
Chamisa vowed that
his party will not recognise the new demarcations announced by the illegitimate
“As a party we maintain that the commission is biased because
its composition does not accommodate the spirit of the current inter-party
talks. Because the commission has refused to recognise our concerns,
it remains an illegitimate commission and as a result its actions and
pronouncements will also be treated as illegitimate”, said Chamisa.
The ZEC said last Thursday that according to its newly collated figures,
the total number of registered voters in Zimbabwe now stands at 5 612
The commission said following the signing of Constitutional Amendment
No 18 last October, the country has now been divided into 210 parliamentary
constituencies -- 90 seats more than the current 120 elected parliamentary
seats -- for the House of Assembly.
As a result of the new demarcations, the ZEC announced that Bulawayo
Province now has 12 constituencies invariably making it the smallest
province in Zimbabwe in terms of registered voters.
Matabeleland North Province now has 13 constituencies, Matabeleland
South 13, Mashonaland West 22, Midlands 28, Manicaland 26, Mashonaland
East 23, Mashonaland Central 18, Masvingo 26 and Harare 29.
The MDC elections directorate says the new demarcations show a deliberate
bias against the opposition with Zanu PF strongholds gaining more constituencies
as compared to traditional MDC strongholds, mainly urban centres and
MDC officials protested that its major stronghold, Bulawayo Province,
had been delimited to become the smallest province in the country because
of “a fictitious voters’ roll being used by ZEC”.
The MDC secretary for elections, Ian Makone, claimed that vote rigging
by Zanu PF and its arms is now in full swing as evidenced by the allocation
of constituencies which “demonstrates a trend of bias towards
the ruling party.”
The MDC official says most of the 90 new constituencies have been allocated
to rural provinces which are traditional strongholds of the ruling party
giving Zanu PF an unfair advantage ahead of the crunch plebiscite.
According to the new allocations, Harare and the three Matabeleland
provinces which are regarded as traditional MDC strongholds have gained
a paltry 28 of the 90 new constituencies while 62 have been taken up
by the rural Mashonaland provinces.
The MDC elections directorate noted that of the 210 constituencies,
143 were rural constituencies (Zanu PF strongholds) while only 67 were
urban or peri-urban (MDC strongholds) which automatically gave the ruling
party a technical two-thirds majority.
The commission says it is forging ahead with the controversial exercise
of delimitating constituency boundaries.
ZEC chairman Justice George Chiweshe on Thursday said the delimitation
of constituencies and ward boundaries had already started adding that
the commission had set up provincial and district committees to spearhead
“The process of demarcating constituency boundaries has started
in earnest and the commission has set up provincial and district committees
to spearhead the process. ZEC is the authority of the delimitation exercise
with a specific mandate to demarcate constituency boundaries”,
The Morgan Tsvangirai-led faction of the MDC wrote a letter to ZEC last
week demanding that the delimitation exercise be stopped in order to
allow for the conclusion of the inter-party talks.
The protracted talks which are aimed at creating common ground between
the political parties and springing permanent solutions to the country’s
political and economic crisis are scheduled to wind up by 15 December.
The MDC has demanded the dissolution and the demilitarization of the
The MDC is calling for the appointment of an independent electoral commission
to preside over the demarcation of constituency boundaries charging
that the current body is staffed with former military personnel, Central
Intelligence Organization (CIO) operatives and Zanu PF functionaries.
Commission chairman, George Chiweshe, is a former military lawyer having
served the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) as a court marshal judge.
The opposition has also called for the establishment of a new voters’
roll insisting that the ZEC is using a flawed voters’ roll to
delimit constituency and ward boundaries.
But Chiweshe says the commission will not be bogged down by the MDC
protestations suggesting that the opposition party is playing to the
gallery of the international community by making scurrilous allegations
against his commission.
“The MDC has written to us raising its concerns on the composition
of the commission and the voters’ registration exercise and we
have responded to them in confidence. We know that there will be complaints
and compliments along the way, some valid and some not valid,”
The ZEC chairman accused the MDC of making specious allegations “without
giving facts and evidence.”
Observers say the MDC and Zanu PF are headed for collision as they approach
the last stretch of the inter-party talks with opposition demanding
“tangible deliverables” while the ruling party is bent on
making minimum concessions.
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