HARARE – Confusion reigned on Saturday after two government spokesmen contradicted each other about the status of a delimitation report handed over to President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Friday.
Moments after Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba handed over some documents to Mnangagwa, all major media outlets including the state-run ZBC and The Herald reported that she had submitted the final report of the delimitation of ward and constituency boundaries.
But within hours, Ndavaningi Mangwana, the permanent secretary in the ministry of information and designated government spokesman, countered this narrative.
He tweeted: “Correction: We have noted a number of social media reports to the effect that the final delimitation report has been presented to HE the President. The final report has NOT yet been presented to His Excellency. When that happens, the public will be informed, thank you.”
Mangwana’s intervention forced the official Herald newspaper to now report, in its Saturday edition, that ZEC had presented Mnangagwa with “a revised draft of the final report on the delimitation of constituency and ward boundaries…” The paper also called the document a “revised preliminary delimitation report,” adding that the “draft preliminary delimitation report that ZEC handed over to the president will be gazetted in the next 14 days subject to approval by the Head of State.”
But Mnangagwa’s spokesman George Charamba, in his weekly column published in the same paper, maintained that Chigumba had presented ZEC’s final delimitation report.
He wrote in the column ‘Jamwanda on Saturday’: “So the furore over the delimitation report is now over, what with the submission of the final report to the state president yesterday by ZEC chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba?
“There was visible relief on her face after the long, drawn-out, fraught ritual; but there was also a glint of satisfaction that critical timelines had been met to make the report a governing document for the 2023 harmonised polls. That done, contesting parties can now get down to the business of canvassing for support…”
Speaking to reporters after the meeting with Mnangagwa on Friday, Chigumba said “we brought him two documents initially.”
On the two documents, Chigumba said “the first document is dealing with our response to the concerns that were raised by parliament, and the second document is dealing with the concerns that His Excellency raised himself” after ZEC handed over a preliminary delimitation report to Mnangagwa on December 26 last year.
She added: “What we have done in these documents is that we have given the legal basis and explanation for our methodology which was brought into question in parliament, whether or not we got the formula correct: was it 10 percent on top and 10 percent at the bottom, was it plus or minus 20 percent, and to what extent did ZEC have a discretion?
“There were a lot of concerns raised but in the responses which we have submitted to the president we have taken each concern one by one, then we have explained where we have agreed that there is need for correction. We have not been shy to say that yes, we accept there was an error here and we have corrected it; where we feel that the concern had no merit we have equally not been shy to say this concern has no merit. Where we feel that any concern raised fell foul of constitutional provisions we have explained reasons.”
Chigumba also went on to say “we have reprinted hardcopies of the preliminary report in line with those corrections and we have resubmitted those to the president who has the mandate to gazette the final delimitation report within 14 days of today. It’s home stretch to the elections.”
The delimitation exercise has opened fissures within Zanu PF amid claims by Mnangagwa’s supporters that Chigumba is in a complicated conspiracy with vice president Constantino Chiwenga to swell battleground constituencies held by Mnangagwa-supporting MPs with traditional opposition voters with the aim of denying him a two thirds majority victory in the general election, with which he can amend the constitution to abolish term limits.
Mnangagwa loyalists were also furious with Chigumba after ZEC deleted seven constituencies held by Mnangagwa loyalists including the Zanu PF chief whip Pupurai Togarepi, transport minister Felix Mhona and tourism minister Mangaliso Ndlovu.
Commissioner Jasper Mangwana, the ZEC spokesman, is one of seven commissioners who were sidelined by Chigumba during the preparation of the delimitation report. His phone rang unanswered on Saturday.
Chigumba notoriously does not respond to media enquiries.
Zimbabwe’s last delimitation exercise was carried out in 2007 and 2008. Under the constitution, for the latest delimitation report to be used in elections expected in August, it must be gazetted at least six months before the election date, otherwise the old boundaries will be used.