BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
Opposition political parties are rallying supporters to register to vote for the upcoming delimitation exercise for the 2023 general elections.
The parties have also upped voter registration awareness campaigns ahead of the exercise.
The delimitation exercise creation of new electoral boundaries will be conducted using census data.
The last delimitation exercise conducted in terms of the old constitution ahead of the 2008 elections and based on the Registrar-General’s voters roll saw the opposition crying foul that their strongholds had been halved.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has warned that Bulawayo, an opposition stronghold, will lose constituencies since the voter registered population for the city falls far short of the minimum threshold.
“The issue (of voter registration) is an emergency because the sadistic central government will not hesitate to reduce parliamentary seats for Bulawayo.
“It is, therefore, imperative that there be a convergence by stakeholders, in particular residents and prospective voters, around this important issue,” MDC Alliance provincial spokesperson Swithern Chirowodza said.
“We are targeting 500 000 new registrants and we encourage political parties, activists and society organisations to converge with us to produce the required synergies.”
ZEC has lifted the suspension on voter registration, but a ban on by-elections as a Covid-19 preventive measure remains in place.
Zapu and MDC spokespersons Iphithule Maphosa and Witness Dube respectively echoed the same sentiments as they pleaded with Zimbabweans, who are eligible to vote to register for the upcoming elections.
“The party is alive and well, and is already moving a gear up in ensuring that as many people as possible register to vote in the next general elections to avoid losing constituencies because of low voter registration,” Dube said.
On Friday, MDC president Douglas Mwonzora launched a voter registration campaign in Matabeleland South.
Maphosa weighed in saying financial challenges besetting the opposition party had not affected its voter registration awareness drive.
“While we as a party are financially constrained to physically assist at a larger scale, we have managed to help a few with logistics to do the actual registration after our information sessions within communities,” Maphosa noted.
“We also have highlighted the negative implications of non-response to calls for heightened registration in potential risk areas of Bulawayo and Matabeleland as well as lobbying for the abandoning of the law that resulted in constituency delimitation being regulated based on voter density.
“We advocate for this to be influenced by population density, needs assessments and the desire to achieve inclusive and equal representation.”
Finance minister Mthuli Ncube allocated $2.3 billion to ZEC in his 2021 budget, of which $1.744 billion is meant to fund the delimitation exercise.
According to independent election watchdog, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn), there has been little progress in implementing recommendations of observer missions on improving the quality of voter registration processes.
Observer missions in their recommendations after the 2018 harmonised elections emphasised the need for the establishment of more permanent registration centres and ease of registration in urban areas, particularly in Bulawayo and Harare, among others.
Zesn has been tracking progress on the implementation of the 2023 election observer mission recommendations that call for the review of the legislative and electoral framework against the country’s constitution, regional and international principles governing the holding of democratic elections.