MT PLEASANT Heights residents who last week petitioned election authorities over their disenfranchisement in terms of election boundaries have another chance for their plight to be addressed as Harare Province has invited representations on the review of ward boundaries.
This week Harare Metropolitan Province called for public representations on the review of ward boundaries for consideration in the forthcoming delimitation for Harare, Chitungwiza, Epworth and Ruwa.
The public input will help sort out how wards have changed since the last delimitation as new suburbs are created and people move into areas that had few residents before or move out of areas that are now mostly commercial.
This has meant some of the wards in the local authorities have huge populations, far larger than average and some are quite small in population, at least when averages are looked at.
Constituencies are formed by combining wards together and, by law, need to have similar numbers of voters, so the number of wards forming a constituency can vary.
In a statement on Monday, Secretary for Provincial Affairs and Devolution for Harare Metropolitan Province Tafadzwa Muguti said the voter imbalances now warrant the review of boundaries to enhance local authority service delivery and make governance easier and fairer.
He said on May 24, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba gazetted ZEC’s intention to undertake the 2022 National Delimitation which involves fixing and reviewing electoral boundaries in line with provisions of the Constitution as read with sections of the Electoral Act.
“The last delimitation exercise was carried out in 2008 and, due to demographic and settlement dynamics, there have been significant changes to voter populations, which, in most cases, have resulted in imbalances in ward voter profiles across the whole Metropolitan Province.”
The Ministry of Local Government and Public Works had convened a National Inception Meeting which tasked all provinces to gather views of organisations, groups and individuals on how ward boundaries could be reviewed for consideration by ZEC in the impending national delimitation.
Pursuant to that, Mr Muguti said the provincial delimitation task team of the Provincial Development Committee is rolling out a stakeholder outreach programme in the City of Harare, Chitungwiza Municipality, Epworth Local Board and Ruwa Local Board, to hear and document ideas and suggestions on the review of ward boundaries as well as any proposal to change the number of wards in each local authority to viable and manageable levels.
Mr Muguti noted that while the committee will receive representations through meetings, stakeholders were also free to deposit written submissions at provincial offices.
Last week, Mt Pleasant Heights residents wrote a petition to ZEC over their disenfranchisement after they were moved from Ward 17 in Mt Pleasant Constituency in Harare and placed under Ward 20 in Mazowe South Constituency under Mashonaland Central province.
Residents said the changes were made in 2018 but they left them disfranchised because they were left without representation under the Harare City Council and under Mazowe Rural District Council.
Although Mt Pleasant Heights was placed under Mazowe Rural District Council, residents of the suburb are getting services from the City of Harare where they pay their rates while their voting rights are in Mazowe South.
The residents said their suburb should be placed under Harare and elect their representatives from where they are paying their rates and taxes.
The petition states that the residents had seen it fit to approach the electoral management body in view of the ongoing delimitation of constituencies by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission in preparation for the 2023 harmonised Presidential, Parliamentary and council elections.
“In 2018 we were removed from Harare’s Mt Pleasant Constituency Ward 17 and placed in Mazowe South’s Ward 20.
“The effect of the transfer is that as the residents of Mt Pleasant Heights we have been disenfranchised by the simple fact that we were left without any representation in neither Harare City Council nor Mazowe Rural District Council on matters of service delivery. However, Harare City Council has been physically providing us service,” reads the petition.
Mt Pleasant Heights residents said the councillor they vote for under Mazowe Rural District Council does not represent them in the local authority were they pay their rates.
“This has been so because while we pay our rates to City of Harare, we vote in ward in Mazowe South. The councillor we vote for does not represent us in the local authority where we pay our rates.
“With the delimitation exercise currently going on this winter, we would like to appeal to ZEC to consider our plight as residents of Mt Pleasant Heights to be returned to Harare and elect our representative from where we pay our rates and taxes,” further reads the petition.
The residents argue that if ZEC does not address their plight they will remain disenfranchised until the next delimitation of constituencies in 2032.
Delimitation is now done after the population census, which is conducted every 10 years.
The Zimbabwe Statistical Agency recently conducted the census and the results together with the statistics from the voter registration exercise are being used to decide constituency boundaries for the 2023 harmonised elections.
“If this doesn’t happen, it means that until the next delimitation in 2032 residents of Mt Pleasant Heights shall again have no representation a situation that has hounded residents for the last five years,” the residents said in their petition.