By Reason Razao | Senior Reporter
LEGAL experts and election watch dogs have poked more holes in the recently proclaimed Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) delimitation report pointing out a litany of constitutional irregularities and anomalies.
In its latest Election Watch 7 of 2023, legal think tank, Veritas, said the wrong part of the report was published.
Veritas also noted that due to the wrong formula used for variations in voter numbers, the delimitation report may be unconstitutional.
The use of the wrong formula to calculate voter variations, cannot be corrected quickly in the short time available, Veritas said, and if the report is not error-free then, according to the Constitution, the next election will have to be held under the old 2008 delimitation.
Among other breaches in handling the proclamation of the delimitation report, Veritas said, Section 161(11) of the Constitution lays down what the President must do after receiving the final delimitation report from ZEC.
“Within fourteen days after receiving the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s final report, the President must publish a proclamation in the Gazette declaring the names and boundaries of the wards and constituencies as finally determined by the Commission,” reads Section 161(11) of the Constitution.
“Note that the President is not expected to publish the delimitation report itself; he is supposed to ‘declare the names and boundaries of the wards and constituencies’. In fact the President did publish the report, but he left out the most important part, the one that sets out electoral boundaries,” Veritas said.
“It seems that the delimitation report he received from ZEC was in the same format as that adopted in previous delimitations.
“First there is the main report, in which ZEC explains the factors it considered when dividing the country into wards and constituencies and the formulae it used in doing so.
“Then there is an Annexure A, setting out total population figures, then an Annexure B, giving detailed descriptions of ward and constituency boundaries, and finally Annexure C, containing maps of the wards and constituencies,” said the legal experts.
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The proclamation, according to Veritas, only published the main report and left out Annexures A, B and C.
“The part that was published, the main report, gives the numbers of wards and the names of constituencies, but does not indicate what their boundaries are.”
The legal think tank added that there is no explanation of what or where the “polling areas” are, and without knowing that it is impossible to ascertain the boundaries of wards and constituencies.
Veritas said because the proclamation does not “declare” the boundaries as it is required to do by section 161(11) of the Constitution, it is therefore a nullity.
Further, Veritas said according to section 161(3) and (4) of the Constitution, wards and constituencies must so far as possible have equal numbers of voters.
“Equality of votes is a fundamental electoral principle laid down in section 155(1)(c) of the Constitution, which ensures that all constituency members of the National Assembly, and all councillors of any local authority area, are elected by more or less the same number of voters,” underscored the legal experts.
Because wards and constituencies cannot be completely equal section 161(6) of the Constitution allows some variation, but says:
“… no constituency or ward of [a] local authority … may have more than twenty per cent more or fewer registered voters than the other such constituencies or wards.”
According to Veritas, the numbers of voters in constituencies and wards can vary by up to 20 per cent but no more.
“ZEC set out the formula it used to calculate the permissible variation in constituencies and wards on pages xii to xiv of its report, and seems to have decided that.
“Constituencies could vary by as much as 20% above and 20% below the national average number of voters per constituency.
“Wards could vary by as much as 20% above and 20% below the average number of voters per ward in the local authority area concerned,” Veritas added.
Veritas warned that, ZEC by using the same formula when preparing the preliminary delimitation report, the election regulatory body allowed the variance to go beyond what the law states.
“Adopting this formula, ZEC said that the maximum number of voters in any constituency could be 33 168 and the minimum number could be 22 112.
“Unfortunately the difference between these two figures – the maximum and minimum numbers – is far greater than 20%, nearer in fact to 33%, and so is unconstitutional.”
“Because the delimitation is based on a wrong formula or premise, and because there are so many illegal variations between wards and constituencies, the delimitation is fatally flawed,” they said.
Election watchdog, Team Pachedu said President Mnangagwa had until February, 26 to gazette final delimitation boundaries.
“ZEC must publish the final national and provincial maps showing constituencies and wards. ZEC must also publish the polling station names for the codes in the report,” said Team Pachedu on Twitter.