On Friday, 26 March 2021, ZESN hosted a virtual workshop for the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to raise awareness and capacitate the Committee members on the theory and practice of the Delimitation process in Zimbabwe. The workshop gave Members of Parliament a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Delimitation process, to enable the Committee to play an oversight role and offer effective support to the Delimitation process. A total of 21 Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs Members and the secretariat of Parliament, in addition to representatives from the ZESN Board members, ZESN staff and civil society representatives attended the workshop.
Mr. Phillip Muziri from the Southern Africa Parliamentary Trust (SAPST) facilitated the discussions. In his opening remarks, Mr. Muziri expressed gratitude to ZESN for calling for and facilitating the interactive dialogue. He noted that ZESN has always sought to engage with Parliament on issues relating to the electoral cycle in view of their importance to the credibility of elections. He explained to the Members of Parliament that as MPs and as members of the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs are key stakeholders on delimitation issues.
Mr. Taona Mwanyisa presented on the definition of boundary delimitation, its importance, the current legal framework, principles of delimitation and key considerations in dividing Zimbabwe into constituencies and wards, as well as steps in the delimitation process itself. The presentation also looked at the nexus between delimitation with census as well as voter registration data. Previous challenges with the Delimitation process were also discussed, in addition to the proffering of recommendations to improve the Delimitation process for different stakeholders including the Parliament, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, civil society organizations and political parties.
After the main presentations, there were submissions by Civil society organisations present about their expectations of the Delimitation process. The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) noted that the Delimitation of Electoral Boundaries is one of the key processes in the Electoral Cycle with a bearing on the credibility of electoral outcomes. If Electoral boundaries are not periodically adjusted, population inequalities develop across districts. ZESN expectations for the process include that the Delimitation body (ZEC) must be non –partisan, professional and not under the influence of any person or body, the
Voter Registration process must be up scaled before the commencement of the delimitation process to ensure that the Voter Roll is as updated and more current and that the ZEC must consult more stakeholders and build consensus on the process. ZESN also called for citizen participation in the process, a clear roadmap availed on time to stakeholders and adequate funds to be given to the Commission on time.
Submissions from the youth sector were that census data must be included in the delimitation report because it will assist in noting the areas that have the highest concentration of eligible voters. The youth representative also called for better coordination between the Registrar- General’s Office and the ZEC on Voter Education outreach, particularly in under-registered areas like Matabeleland South and Matabeleland North. In addition to that, the youths recommended a clear roadmap for delimitation, regular multi-stakeholder engagement, inclusion of young people in the process, and voter education on the process using youth friendly platforms, especially the use of social media.
The Representative from the Disability sector noted that special measures should be taken to ensure equality for persons with disabilities. They called for information on the delimitation process to be publicized in accessible formats which include Sign Language, Braille and captions in order for the information to be accessible to everyone. A lack of information contributes significantly to the violation of persons with disabilities’ right to participate in electoral processes. Other recommendations included the need for ensuring inclusive media for all PWDs and reasonable accessibility in the delimitation processes, and ensuring an accurate database linked to disability which will enable ease in identifying areas where a number of persons with disabilities reside. PWDs also called for information dissemination in easy to read material and in Sign Language or captions and Braille so that the citizens fully understand the role they must play in the process. They also requested for boundaries not to allow for active discrimination against people with disabilities.
From the women sector, it was noted that previous delimitation processes recorded many challenges including lack of transparency, absence of involvement of interested stakeholders especially women, lack of public participation, inadequate publicity, lack of independence of the previous Delimitation Commission and inadequate time for the delimitation process. In observing election processes the women sector noted that their participation is not well informed and infringed with high levels of intimidation. Furthermore, for women in rural areas, they are mostly marginalized in terms of accessing information on electoral laws, as they have limited sources of information provided in vernacular languages and this impacts on their full participation and representation in electoral processes.
During the plenary session, there was consensus that the Delimitation process is a very crucial electoral process that deserves attention from stakeholders. It was noted that political considerations on Delimitation are not peculiar to Zimbabwe, but there is need to find ways of dealing with them to ensure that they do not hinder the process. It was also noted that ZESN must continue to advocate for legislative reforms especially in promotion of marginalized groups’ involvement in the Delimitation and other electoral issues.
Mr. Andrew Makoni, the ZESN Board Chairperson made the vote of thanks and closing remarks. He thanked the Deputy Chairperson of the Committee, all Honourable members, representatives of civil society organisations and ZESN secretariat for making this virtual meeting a success. He believed that all participants had benefitted from the engagement and will also play their part in the delimitation process when the time comes. He urged everyone present to remain committed to their contribution to the improvement of electoral processes in Zimbabwe, and called for continuous engagement of all stakeholders to ensure transparency and efficiency in all electoral processes including delimitation.
Source: Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN)