The Sunday News
Vincent Gono, Features Editor
THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has called on eligible citizens to enhance democracy by registering to vote as the constituency and local authority delimitation exercise is informed by the national census and the number of people registered to vote in any particular constituency.
In an interview, Zec commissioner John Chigaru said the country’s citizens should be politically conscious to know that the delimitation of constituencies that was going to follow the national census was going to be informed by the number of registered voters in that particular constituency.
The census and the number of registered voters, he said, was going to determine weather there was need to have another constituency, to combine them or to let them as they were.
He said it was important that people go to register so that they could be counted in the impending delimitation exercise, adding that it serves to inform the Government on resource allocation and in the general planning around infrastructure and service provision such as schools, clinics, roads, dams and bridges in communities.
“As Zec we are encouraging people to go and register to vote. Our offices are open everyday except for weekends for people to come in and register. The delimitation exercise is going to be carried out immediately after the national census but I can’t give you the actual dates now.
We will also carry out national outreach programmes where we will reach out to the most remote areas of the country so that we give people the latitude to register to vote,” said Commissioner Chigaru.
He added that the issue of people not registering to vote was affecting not only the political landscape of the country but the whole spectrum of national development and that problem was not confined to Matabeleland Provinces only but to other provinces of the country as well.
Commissioner Chigaru said Zec understands very well that there was so much that needed to be done in so little a time, but expressed optimism that all will be accomplished.
“We have been discussing about that. The delimitation exercise is tied to the census which is on this year while harmonised elections will be on next year. It is from the results of the census and the number of registered voters that will inform the delimitation process. So, we are encouraging people to go and register.”
According to the Zec website, delimitation is the process of dividing the country into constituencies and wards for the purposes of elections of persons to constituency seats in the National Assembly and of councillors to local authorities. The process is carried out in terms of sections 160 and 161 of the new Constitution.
Zec also notes that for the purpose of electing Members of Parliament, it must divide Zimbabwe into two 210 constituencies and for the purpose of elections to local authorities, the Commission must divide local authority areas into wards according to the number of members to be elected to the local authorities concerned.
“Once every ten years, on a date or within a period fixed by the Commission so as to fall as soon as possible after a population census, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission must conduct a delimitation of the electoral boundaries into which Zimbabwe is to be divided.
If a delimitation of electoral boundaries is completed less than six months before polling day in a general election, the boundaries so delimited do not apply to that election, and instead the boundaries that existed immediately before the delimitation are applicable.
“The boundaries of constituencies must be such that, so far as possible, at the time of delimitation equal numbers of voters are registered in each constituency within Zimbabwe. The boundaries of wards must be such that, so far as possible, at the time of delimitation equal numbers of voters are registered in each ward of the local authority concerned,” reads the Zec website.
Former Zec Commissioner Qhubani Moyo said the voter registration process was supposed to be an apolitical process that is also going to inform the delimitation exercise.
“Delimitation was determined not by the population but by the number of registered voters in a particular constituency,” he said.
He added that it was prudent to untie the two processes since the census results might not be available in time for the delimitation exercise to be carried out.
“I think we need to untie the delimitation exercise from the census. The delimitation is largely informed by the number of registered voters in a particular area and not the whole population even of those that are not eligible to vote. There is need to move with speed and ensure the census results are made available in time for the delimitation exercise to take place,” said Commissioner Moyo.
He said it should be known to the country’s citizens that registration was not only done when elections were close by.
“Those that would have registered now will not be called to register again, what they will only be called to do will be to inspect the voters roll and make sure their names appear correctly. So, both Zec and the political parties should play ball in encouraging people to go and register to vote. It should be an apolitical exercise,” he said.
Political analyst Dr Last Alfandika said voter registration was an important exercise and awareness campaigns should start now to conscientise the public on the importance of voting. He urged active citizen participation in the country’s body politic.
“Voting gives you a say on important issues that affect you — from roads and education to social welfare, among several other issues. It gives you a say on who represents you in your local council, Parliament and at Presidential level. By not registering, you are giving away your right to vote for what you want and literally saying other people must decide your life because, if you do not register, you can’t vote!
What it means is that a small group of registered voters in your ward, constituency and country will now decide who will represent you in all these categories. So, an active citizen does not let other people decide for them, they register to vote and participate in an electoral system,” he said.
Dr Alfandika added that there was need to debunk the wild notion within the youths that voting was not necessary. On the delimitation exercise he said there was a possibility that some areas could lose some constituencies while other areas can have more depending on the number of registered voters as well as the national census results.
“As the preparations for 2023 elections step up, the process of delimitation is also ongoing. The redrawing of electoral boundaries is a constitutional obligation to improve the accountability of representatives to their voters,” said Dr Alfandika.
He notes that the exercise seeks to closely link elected representatives to a smaller, geographically-defined, constituency and it allows voters to hold specific representatives accountable and voting them out of office if they do not act in accordance with voters’ wishes and returning them to office if they do.
The whole issue, he said, was centred around enhancing democracy and urged people to take advantage of the process to go and register to vote so that their voices were counted as well as inform government on important developmental issues.