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Zanu PF and opposition face-off over delimitation report

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BULAWAYO – Zanu PF has rejected the delimitation of electoral boundaries report compiled by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and set in motion plans to have it nullified in court, ZimLive can reveal.

Senior Zanu PF figures are accusing ZEC chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba of “selling out” and laying the groundwork for a “palace coup” after an analysis by party strategists concluded that the new ward and constituency boundaries favour the opposition.

The report, which has not been released to the public, was submitted to President Emmerson Mnangagwa by Justice Chigumba on December 26. Mnangagwa is required by law to table the report before parliament within seven working days.

But even before the report has been seen by MPs, Zanu PF officials led by justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi are demanding that it should be withdrawn and the delimitation process restarted.

Chigumba is also facing a revolt from other ZEC commissioners, but she and her deputy Rodney Simukai Kiwa have so far refused to be bowed, sources said.

Of the nine ZEC commissioners, seven reportedly refused to endorse the report. Chigumba and Kiwa, however, insisted that there was no legal requirement for consensus among commissioners before the delimitation report is submitted to Mnangagwa.

In off-the-record briefings, Zanu PF officials said they feared Justice Chigumba is working with a faction inside Zanu PF led by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga to pull off what they are calling a “palace coup.”

Justice minister Ziyambi and the ministry’s permanent secretary Virginia Mabhiza have convinced Mnangagwa that the delimitation report is a threat to his re-election ambitions in general elections due next year.

Ziyambi and Mabhiza, insiders said, were furious to discover that Central Intelligence Organisation boss Isaac Moyo had aligned himself with Justice Chigumba. Moyo was summoned to a meeting with Mnangagwa, Ziyambi and Mabhiza where the Zanu PF leader ordered them to find strategies of getting the report nullified.

From the meeting, lawyer Professor Lovemore Madhuku was engaged to mount a legal challenge to have the report set aside. The application will be filed by a proxy as Zanu PF is reluctant to publicly square off with Justice Chigumba, the sources said.

Madhuku confirmed he had been engaged to challenge the delimitation report, but added: “I am in the process of receiving full instructions.”

The lawyer would not reveal his client, or how they had seen the report which is yet to be made public.

“Obviously any legal process would have to wait for the public release of the report,” Madhuku said.

Ziyambi denied he had issues with the delimitation report.

“That’s not correct. I will be tabling it in parliament on January 6,” Ziyambi said.

Zanu PF strategists are reportedly spooked by what they say is a systematic allocation of voters from opposition strongholds to constituencies and wards under Zanu PF control, sometimes with almost the same number required to wipe out the party’s majority from the last elections in 2018.

“An example of this is where voters from the opposition’s urban strongholds are migrated to a neighbouring constituency in a peri-urban area which is under Zanu PF control. It was methodical. ZEC were playing a numbers game and the intentions are clear,” one Zanu PF official fumed.

The official said even if Mnangagwa won the presidential vote, he may find himself without a parliamentary majority to govern, leaving him vulnerable to political plots by rivals including Chiwenga.

The delimitation report also has scenarios where sitting Zanu PF MPs will have their constituencies eaten up by neighbouring constituencies.

“The plan is to make sitting Zanu PF MPs fight over constituencies, and cause disharmony leading to vote splitting,” another Zanu PF official who had sight of the report claimed.

Questions left for Justice Chigumba had not been answered.

Chigumba has for years been the arch nemesis of opposition parties in Zimbabwe, accused of facilitating election fraud by Zanu PF and disenfranchising opposition voters by manipulating the voters roll.

Few would have forseen her fallout with Zanu PF so close to an election. Schisms within ZEC itself have echoes of Kenya where some commissioners of the body in charge of elections refused to endorse new President William Ruto’s victory, only for a court to rule that such endorsement was not a legal requirement before election results are announced.