Chiefs fume over exclusion in delimitation exercise

Traditional leaders claim that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) did not engage them during the delimitation of boundaries and constituencies yet they are the custodians of the land.

Chief Mtshane-Khumalo of Bubi, the deputy president of the National Chiefs’ Council, said despite the fact that the delimitation process affected everyone, ZEC did not consult them.

“It looks like they forgot that the structure in communal lands starts with the village head, chief, councillor and so on.  All this was not observed and ZEC operated on their own accord,” he said at the Senate recently.

Chief Mtshane-Khumalo cited confusing changes that villagers in Bubi would not grasp since the delimitation report did not correspond to the circumstances on the ground.

For instance, he said ZEC took Ward 8, which is 70 km away and put it in the township and changed Village 5 and 6 in Ward 11 yet Villages 4, 5 and 6 are called communal lands with a high population.

Ward 11 has seven villages including a resettlement area so cannot accommodate Village 2 and 5 to be in one place. 

“We are not in agreement with that because we were not consulted.  Constituencies and local authority wards did not change. What changed is the number of voters,” he said.

Senator Alice Dube of Matabeleland North concurred that ZEC should have consulted the grassroots and their traditional leadership.

“They are supposed to be consulted so that people can move on the same page and understand each other. I understand this was not done. This has now led to what we are seeing – discrepancies and some processes that were not followed duly in conducting these issues,” she said.

Dube claimed that ZEC violated Section 161 of the Constitution, which requires consultations before conducting such a report.

“We have a lot of questions asked by people in our constituencies. They are asking that, ‘since you are our leaders, our constituencies are being divided, what is happening? What is taking place?’ We need to understand what is happening within our constituencies,” she said.

“In response, we tell them we do not know what is happening because we were not consulted. If they had announced to us that there were supposed to be consultations on conducting the delimitation report, we could have mobilised the traditional leaders, the chiefs so that they  convey the message to people. People would have been mobilised to go and vote so that when this delimitation exercise is conducted, people would know. We want them to understand that this delimitation is not only for voting but also for development.”

The senator stated that where she comes from -Tsholotsho Urban under Tsholotsho South Constituency has been shifted to Tsholotsho North, with a distance of over 80km to reach the nearest councillor.

“This means people now have to travel long distances to get the services that they are supposed to get within their wards. We understand that this delimitation is now taking us from our closer areas of services taking us to areas that are far away,” Dube said.

Dube said chiefs were even confused about the process yet they are custodians of communities.

“They do not understand that subjects who were once under Chief Deve are now under Chief Gampu. How will people understand it and be able to relate with the new chief?” she questioned.

To avoid controversy, ZEC should return to the ground and address such issues, according to the senator.

“People who were registered to vote after the census were not included and there are quite a number of people that were registered after the census. Looking at it now, these people do not appear on the roll,” Dube said.

“ ZEC should go to the traditional leaders and educate them on how this process was conducted and how it is going to help them. As it is right now, people are now in conflict because they do not understand this exercise.

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