After serious engagements between rights bodies and relevant authorities to push for boundary delimitation, the government gave in to conducting a delimitation exercise before the beckoning 2023 elections.
To begin with, delimitation entails the process of drawing electoral boundaries which may include provinces, constituencies and wards.
In the process, it determines polling areas for purposes of assigning voters to certain polling stations so as to come up with fairer representations of all groups in the electoral process.
Zimbabwe has had its own fair share of contested elections as any country in Africa as may be witnessed in Uganda through the tussle between the giant Yoweri Museveni and opposing Bobi Wine.
The last delimitation process was conducted over a decade ago in 2008 and it does not need any reminder to anyone including the government that the unstable economic and political environment shifts the population around and outside.
It is international standard that at least after every 10 years a delimitation process must be conducted preferably soon after conducting a census which bring about accurate data about the population distribution in country.
Unfortunately in Zimbabwe there is a disruptive timing process where the census and the delimitation process is conducted as two processes too separate to be in sync.
The last census was held in 2012.
Even though delimitation was due in 2018, there was no recent statistics on population distribution that could be used as basis for electoral boundary delimitation.
Thanks to stakeholders in the field, the government was about to use that as an excuse to not hold delimitation before the 2023 elections as in their timing census was supposed to be held in 2022 which will be too close to the elections for any delimitation to take place.
In that regard organisation such as the National Democratic Institute (NDI) have been doing essential work to build the capacity of civic society organizations and other stakeholders so that they engage on the process from an informed position.
So must the citizens!
The publics are key in coming up with an effective process and it is dire for them to have awareness around why it is important and how the process helps to build democracy.
The Government of Zimbabwe and relevant commission must meet the work that is already being carried out by independent stakeholders to increase public awareness around this process.
There is no need for this process to be done Nicodemusly as the publics must be given a chance to hand in their inputs and also challenge the outputs of the process if there is need.
The media must be trained and capacitated to robustly report around this and help in building an informed society that will participate and engage with the delimitation process.
According to NDI, principles of boundary delimitation include but are not limited to:
- There should be equal voting strength and balanced distribution of seat among constituencies and wards on the basis of accurate population distribution.
- Boundaries should be fully representative of communities with shared interests as much as possible. Communities with shared values, history, culture, languages, economic interest and common ethnic background must have an opportunity to elect someone who fully represents their interests.
- There should be no discrimination whatsoever in the boundary delimitation process particularly with regard to minority groups with specific interests.
- There should be transparent process with methodology and guidelines published in advance. Stakeholder consultation is critical and there should be sufficient time to challenge the output
- Independent and impartial bodies, officials with sufficient skills must engaged as boundary delimitation authorities