By Blessings Mashaya
ANXIOUS church leaders have reiterated their call for national dialogue ahead of next year’s crunch harmonised elections to ensure peace in the country.
Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference, Frederick Chiromba, pictured, — who is also a member of the Zimbabwe Heads Of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD) — said clerics were, in this regard, stepping up their efforts to nudge President Emmerson Mnangagwa, opposition leader Douglas Mwonzora and his Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) counterpart Nelson Chamisa to engage over electoral reforms and peace talks.
The Daily News has reported on dialogue among political parties in Parliament. ZHOCD supports this and continues to hope that the principals will meet and agree on the electoral process and also sign a peace pledge.
“A coming together of the principals will greatly reduce the appetite for violence among their followers. Our engagement is broader than the signing of a peace pledge and we are pushing for dialogue.
“We keep on trying and doing everything that we deem will be helpful for the nation,” Chiromba told the Daily News.
This comes after political analysts recently said that the growing convergence of minds on the need for dialogue by Zimbabwe’s major political parties — Zanu PF, the MDC and the CCC — could finally see the end of the country’s long history of disputed elections.
This came after the three parties were said to be involved in low-key talks aimed at finally removing hurdles towards the long-mooted national dialogue.
At the same time, Zanu PF says it is now in full campaign mode ahead of next year’s elections, with the ruling party recently commissioning its provincial leaders to start mobilising its rural strongholds.
Speaking to the Daily News earlier this month, Zanu PF political commissar, Mike Bimha, confirmed that the former liberation movement was now undertaking key programmes to strengthen its power citadels.
“When we were restructuring, we were preparing for campaigns and this is now part of the campaigns. This will be an ongoing process up tothe elections.
“There is no time to waste, and we are now in serious campaign mode. This is a process of strengthening the party and what is being done by provincial leaders is what we encourage all party members to do ahead of the polls.
“We always have strongholds in rural areas and so we want to consolidate them. The party’s thrust is to leave no one behind,” Bimha said.
“Whatever the opposition is doing in rural areas we know that we are going to counter it because we have strong policies that appeal to everyone there.
“Zanu PF is unstoppable. No one is able to separate us from our people, especially in rural areas.
“All party members are out in full force to campaign for the party and President Emmerson Mnangagwa ahead of elections. The conferences and congress are over and it’s now time to campaign,” Bimha added.
Meanwhile, the former liberation movement is also cranking up the heat on the opposition, saying it wants the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to review the number of constituencies in urban areas at the end of the current delimitation exercise.
This, the ruling party argues, will not be done to aid Zanu PF in coming polls, but to make sure that everything done at the end of the delimitation exercise is consistent with both the letter and the spirit of the country’s Constitution, which give the elections management body the powers to reduce or increase constituencies in areas where there is either high or low registrations of voters.
Speaking last week on independent national television channel 3Ktv’s popular current affairs programme, Vantage, Zanu PF Harare provincial chairperson Godwills Masimirembwa, said the ruling party was asking Zec to apply what the law prescribed at the end of the ongoing delimitation exercise.
“Delimitation is governed by sections 160 and 161 of the Constitution. Essentially, our expectations are that Zec will have regard to those provisions and we have no doubt that they will do so.
“We are saying delimitation is a scientific process, and to some extent an emotional process here and there. We are simply saying the correct thing must be done.
“We must come up with constituencies which can be supported by our constitutional provisions,” Masimirembwa said.
“What is critical for an urban province like Harare is that when you are coming up with the number of constituencies you are guided by the provisions of Section 161, where you are looking at how densely people are populated in your area, the ease of communication and other issues stated there,” he added.
Masimirembwa also told 3Ktv that Zanu PF’s expectations — in the worst case scenario — was that Harare Province would retain its current 29 parliamentary constituencies.
“The best case scenario is that those 29 constituencies should come down and the reason for this is very simple.
“As at 30 May 2022, Harare had a registered voter population of about 952 000 and with 29 constituencies it means that the mean figure for our constituencies is around 27 000.
“At the same time, the constitution allows 20 percent up or 20 percent down, taking into consideration the issues I have raised — how densely populated areas are, et cetera.
“When you look at an urban constituency, you will have say 32 000 people in an area which you will cover maybe in one hour, whereas in a rural constituency of 30 000 people you will need to travel about 200 kilometres.
“So, people must understand that rural constituencies need to enjoy the lower limit of 27 000 people per constituency, that is 20 percent down,” Masimirembwa further told 3Ktv.
“In other words, what we are saying is that the constitution provides this, and at the end of the day it’s Zec’s responsibility to ensure that in coming up with the boundaries of the constituencies they take into account the issues of community interests and so on,” he added.
“But even taking into this into account, there is also the overriding fact that you are enjoined to say the number of registered voters in Harare are so many.
“And if you divide this by the current existing constituencies to come up with an average number of people there, then you move from that average number upwards or downwards, taking into account the various factors like population density, community of interest and so on.
“For Zanu PF, it is not an issue of the delimitation exercise aiding its chances or limiting its chances. It is the issue of doing the correct thing in terms of the constitution or in terms of the law.
“The issue of winning the hearts and minds of the people is based and bed-rocked on the achievement of Zanu PF … the achievements of the Second Republic … on what His Excellency (President Emmerson Mnangagwa has done for this nation,” Masimirembwa added.
He also argued that the current delimitation exercise needed to increase constituencies in rural areas given their geographical nature, and where constituencies were on average sparsely populated — with people having to travel far to vote.
“Imagine that you are in a rural constituency where you have to cover 200 kilometres to get to 30 000 people … it is an uphill task.
“So, we are saying when you look and read the constitution in rural constituencies you should use the lower limit in order to get the number of registered voters for a constituency because they are sparsely populated.
“Whereas in an urban set-up like Harare we are densely populated. To get to 30 000 it’s a few blocks of flats and people are on an average of 150 square metres, 300 square metres of residential stands,” Masimirembwa further told 3Ktv. – Daily News