By Reason Razao
LEGAL think-tank, Veritas, has raised red flags over Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s (ZEC) delimitation report, saying it was fatally flawed, with excessive voter statistics variation in contravention of the constitution, rendering it legally void.
The country’s electoral governing body recently tabled a delimitation report which critics also said was full of irregularities and breaches a number of constitutional sections.
As part of its feedback on the analysis of the delimitation report, Veritas revealed that the delimitation exercise was mostly based on some provisions of the old Lancaster House rather than on the provisions of the current Constitution.
According to section 161(3) of the Constitution, ZEC must ensure that equal numbers of voters are registered in each constituency throughout Zimbabwe.
Section 161(4) of the constitution makes a similar provision for ward boundaries.
According to Veritas, since ZEC cannot ensure complete equality, the commission invoked section 161(6) of the Constitution which says the Commission may depart from the requirement that constituencies and wards must have equal numbers of voters, but no constituency or ward of [a] local authority may have more than 20% more or fewer registered voters than the other … constituencies or wards.
In simple terms, the numbers of voters in constituencies and wards can only vary by up to 20%.
Veritas said ZEC erred in applying the clause in section 161(6) of the Constitution.
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“What ZEC has done is to take the average number of voters per constituency (27 640) and then calculate the number of voters that would be 20%above that average (33 169) and the number that is 20%below the average (22 112), allowing a difference of up to 40%.
“This formula however means that the difference between the maximum number of voters and the minimum is much more than 20%, which is not allowed by section 161(6) of the Constitution.
“ZEC may have been led into error by the fact that the old Lancaster House constitution allowed constituencies to vary according to the formula that ZEC has adopted.”
“Section 61A(6) of the Constitution stated that in dividing Zimbabwe into wards and House of Assembly constituencies, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission … may depart from the requirements of subsection (4) [which required voter numbers to be equal], but in no case to any greater extent than twenty percent more or less than the average number of registered voters in House of Assembly constituencies.
“That formula allowed constituencies to vary by more than 20% so long as they were no more than 20% above of 20%below the average. The present Constitution does not allow this. The number of voters cannot vary by more than 20% between any constituencies.
“What ZEC should have done was to calculate the average number of voters per constituency (27 640), then work out the number of voters 10
% above that average (30 404) and the number 10 per cent below (24 876).
“These latter two numbers vary by about 19%, which is within the permissible limit. ZEC should then have ensured that no constituency had more than 30 404 voters and none had fewer than 24 876,” said Veritas.
The watchdog added that the same formula should have been adopted for wards in each local authority .
As it stands, many of the constituencies delimited by ZEC fall outside the permissible limits.
In Bulawayo Metropolitan Province, according to the delimitation report, the constituencies of Bulawayo Central have 22 115 voters, while Bulawayo North has 22 125, which Veritas claim are well below the minimum 24 876 limit.
Conversely, in Harare Metropolitan Province, the constituencies of Churu have 33 001 voters and Harare East consist of 33 103 which again Veritas said are well above the maximum.
“All the Bulawayo constituencies are below the limit and most of the Harare constituencies are above it. And there are very many similar cases in the other provinces,” added Veritas.
According to the Constitution, the delimitation must be published at least six months before polling day in a general election if the new electoral boundaries are to be used for that election.
This leaves very little time for the adoption of the new boundaries, since elections are slated for either July or August this year.
“The necessary groundwork has presumably been completed so that ZEC has worked out where voters live throughout the country. ZEC may therefore be able to shuffle constituency and ward boundaries around so as to bring them into conformity with the Constitution in time for the final report to be published by the 26th February deadline,” said the law experts.
Currently, the delimitation report is being analysed by an ad hoc committee appointed by Senate and the National Assembly, which will duly report back next Friday for consideration and adoption of the new set boundaries.