The principles of universal and equal suffrage are of paramount importance to any democracy. Equal suffrage implies the equality of voting strength of “one person one vote”. In many electoral systems, this can only be ensured through regular redrawing of electoral boundaries.
Zimbabwe practices a mixed electoral system, which requires first-past-the-post elections in 210 single-member constituencies for the National Assembly as well as in nearly 2,000 wards that elect one Councillor each for the local authorities. The local authorities determine the number of their Councillors themselves.
The legal framework provides that all the 210 National Assembly constituencies, as well as all the wards within one local authority must have equal voter populations. However, due to different rates of population growth, migration and to land use changes, the boundaries of constituencies and wards need to be redrawn on a regular basis. Zimbabwe’s constitution requires this complex exercise to be undertaken once every ten years and as soon as possible after a population census.
The enumeration phase of Zimbabwe’s census is scheduled for the middle of 2021. This is why the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is preparing to conduct the delimitation of electoral boundaries, so that this process can be completed in time for the 2023 elections.
The preparations included a virtual experience exchange between ZEC Secretariat staff and the international boundary delimitation expert Lisa Handley. In the meeting, Dr. Handley presented the international standards and best practices and the ZEC Director for Voter Registration and Boundary Delimitation, Mr. Tinos Madondo, provided an overview of the Zimbabwean context and preparations. This was followed by a discussion of anticipated challenges and how similar situations were handled in other countries.
The exchange provided useful input for a course on boundary delimitation that ZEC is developing using the global BRIDGE methodology.