Zim’s rural-urban divide continues over Zec impartiality

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By Leopold Munhende

MAJORITY of Zimbabweans believe the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEEC), can be trusted to handle the delimitation of constituencies that are used during elections a report by a local civic body has revealed.

ZEC’s impartiality has for years been a source of heckling among political parties and citizens. In the aftermath of last year’s general elections, opposition MDC leader and losing presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa claimed ZEC had colluded with the ruling Zanu PF party to rig elections in favour of President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The Commission has vehemently rejected the claims and the Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network (ZESN)’s latest report could be a confidence booster for chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba and her team.

“The independence of the ZEC has been one of the issues on the ZESN agenda for electoral reforms.

“Whilst the Constitution provides for the independence of the Commission, the alignment of the Electoral Act to the Constitution and political will, might go a long way in strengthening the independence of the ZEC,” reads the 96 page report.

“Citizens, generally (62.43%) believe that the ZEC is an impartial body to conduct delimitation.”

However, the catch comes when the results of the research are analysed by geographical location or divided between the urban and rural population.

“When analysed by place of residence, a majority (68.30%) of those who believe that the Commission is impartial reside in the rural area, inversely a majority (50.22%) who pointed out that the ZEC is not an impartial body to conduct delimitations reside in the urban areas,” the ZESN report shows.

Since the turn of the century when the opposition MDC was formed, politics in Zimbabwe and electoral outcomes in particular have been divided between urban and rural dynamics. The country’s urban population has consistently voted for the opposition giving the MDC a monopoly on local authorities and peri-urban areas. On the other hand with at least 70 percent of the population being rural based the ruling Zanu PF party has used this to its advantage to win elections overall amid claims of intimidation and manipulation by the opposition.

Delimitation of constituencies is done after every ten years following a population census. The last delimitation exercise was conducted in 2013 triggered by the adoption of a new Constitution with the next one expected in 2022, a year before the next elections.

The opposition has also accused the ZEC of gerrymandering constituency boundaries to favour Zanu PF and provide the ruling party with a window into its urban strongholds. As if to buttress this claim, Zanu PF has consistently won in peri-urban constituencies such as Harare-South Constituency in the capital.

ZEC’s handling of last year’s harmonised elections was heavily criticised by foreign observer missions including the European Union who described it as lacking inclusivity and transparency.

The report indicated that involvement of former army personnel and the overbearing impact of the executive through the Ministry of Justice has raised doubts on the Commission’s credibility and impartiality going into the election.