The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has begun preparatory consultations to draw boundaries that will be used for the next harmonised elections.
While the delimitation exercise is usually conducted after the national population census — of which the next one is expected in 2022, a year before the elections — Government has already decided to amend the Constitution to delink the two key exercises.
It would, however, mean that constituency boundaries would be mapped using registered voters.
The delimitation exercise involves coming up with a minimum threshold of registered voters to make the country’s 210 National Assembly constituencies.
ZEC’s chief elections officer Mr Utoile Silaigwana recently told The Sunday Mail that the elections management body was engaging key stakeholders to help shape the process.
“You are aware that delimitation is a constitutional item in terms of Section 161 (1), which states that delimitation shall be done after every 10 years as soon as possible after a census exercise,” he said.
“So, if you look at the next census exercise, which is in 2022, and the next election is in 2023, already that shows a coincidence in the two major exercises.
“But the amendment of the Constitution is not within the purview of ZEC; it is with the Legislature.
“But ZEC has not sat back because of that; as part of preparations, we have already started discussions and consultations with some institutions and stakeholders, particularly ZimStat, the Ministry of Local Government (and Public Works) and the Registrar-General.”
ZEC says the number of people registering to vote is “disappointingly low”, especially after the July 30 elections last year, as only 2 000 had been captured.
It is, however, believed that this is a common trend outside the election cycle.
Voter registration is a continuous process in terms of the law.
“ZEC has remained open for continuous voter registration in the districts and provinces, but a few people have come to register.
“We have, through our efforts, been sensitising people about the need to register (to vote).
“But somehow, the uptake is low.”
Voter registration, said Mr Silaigwana, would naturally determine constituency boundaries.
The commission is considering engaging political parties to encourage people to register.
“I know that during the off-season, people do not place a lot of importance to that, but as an election management body, we are trying as much as we can to sensitise people; more so, in light of the forthcoming delimitation exercise,” said Mr Silaigwana.
“This is so because the delimitation is largely informed by the number of registered voters.
“The fewer the people registered in a district or a province, the fewer constituencies that province will get.”
The election management body has now resorted to door-stepping public gatherings in order to register voters.
Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) chairperson Mr Andrew Makoni said voters were likely to become apathetic if they did not get enough information.
“The low numbers of new registrants all come down to lack of civic voter education both by ZEC and civil society organisations.
“My plea is that in between elections voter education must not stop.
“If we stop providing the information, the result is the apathy that we are seeing,” said Mr Makoni.