Boundary delimitation refers to the process of drawing electoral district boundaries. It is the process of demarcating electoral boundaries (constituencies, wards, polling districts) for the purposes of conducting elections. In Zimbabwe, 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 councilors to local authorities.
Problems identified with previous delimitation processes have included; lack of transparency; absence of involvement of interested stakeholder; lack of public participation; inadequate publicity; independence of the previous Delimitation Commission; and, inadequate time for the delimitation process.
In 2000, delimitation was conducted well after the five-year interval set in terms of section 59(4) of the old Constitution. Then, the Delimitation Commission was responsible for determining electoral boundaries and Zimbabwe was divided into 120 constituencies. The President appointed the Commission at five-yearly intervals, or just before the next election. The shortcomings of the process included late appointment of the commission; the voters’ roll was not provided on time; late submission of the report; and, lack of public participation. Sachikonye (2003: 13) points out that the Commission was appointed late, delaying its work and availability of the report which was made public three weeks before the election, leaving very little time to inspect the report, and thereby creating some confusion amongst voters in constituencies where boundaries had changed about where they should vote. In 2005, the Delimitation Commission was criticized for manipulating electoral boundaries (Crisis Coalition 2005: 6). Ndoro (2005: 79) further points out that allegations of gerrymandering of election boundaries were made and areas that lost constituencies were strongholds of the opposition, while the ruling party strongholds gained seats, contrary to census statistics and the theories of rural to urban migration.
Constitutional Amendment Act No. 18 of September 2017, among other issues increased the number of constituencies in the country from 120 to 210, and empowered the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to delimit constituencies and wards. The 2007/08 delimitation conducted by the ZEC was not sufficiently consultative and participatory. The report was finalised late, leaving no time for debate in Parliament, opening the ZEC to accusations of favoring the ruling party (Human Rights Watch, 2008). The ZEC failed to carry out its educative mandate after establishing boundaries.
Knowledge of the new constituencies and wards was not widespread prior to polling day. Allocation of polling stations was done too late, contravening section 51 of the Electoral Act requiring information about polling stations to be provided at least 21 days prior to the polling date. The timing of the delimitation left inadequate time for voters’ to establish their ward and constituency boundaries and subsequently inspect the voters’ roll. Inconsistencies were noted in the allocation of constituencies, were provinces that are largely rural, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West, Midlands and Masvingo received more new constituencies, while urban provinces such as Bulawayo did not receive a significant number of new constituencies.
Source: Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN)