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  • Odd numbers
    Derek Matyszak, Research and Advocacy Unit
    June 11, 2013

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    In a report on the polling figures for the March 16th Referendum of 2013 on a new constitution for Zimbabwe, the Election Support Centre (a Harare based NGO) states that “the flurry of votes has left more answers than questions (sic) with various suggestions being made to explain the rise in the voter turnout”. Both Zanu-PF and MDC-T sought to interpret increased numbers at the poll, (relative to the 2008 elections and all previous polls) as a sign of support for their parties’ policies and claimed extreme satisfaction with the results.

    However, a closer look at the numbers should cause some disquiet for those who hope that the general election of 2013 will meet democratic standards. The numbers which emerge from the Referendum show that, despite the claimed surfeit of answers over questions, the question marks pertaining to the state of the Voters Roll remain. In fact, the need for urgent attention to this element of the electoral process is underscored. Furthermore, comparing the numbers on the voters roll with those of the Referendum and Census also somewhat undermines any confidence one might place in data presented there.


    This brief report uses numbers from the recently released preliminary report of the 2012 Census and compares these numbers with the figures on the Voters Roll and the official results of the Referendum.

    In compiling these figures, difficulties exist in obtaining accurate and essential information, for current purposes, in respect of each of the three core components – the Census, the Voters Roll and the Referendum.

    The Census figures are problematic due to the fact that only preliminary results for the 2012 Census have been released, and these results do not reveal any age demographic, the statistic of prime importance here, and which would make it possible to estimate the eligible voter population (i.e. adults or persons above the age of 18); the Voters Roll is problematic as a source as the only official “electronic” version of the roll available at the time of writing, one released prior to the March 2008 election, does not include the over 300 000 voters added to the roll after its release; and the official results for the Referendum are problematic as they have only been broken down to constituency level, rather than polling station level, as is required for proper psephological analysis.

    These difficulties have been approached in the following way.

    The gap in the 2012 Census data pertaining to age demographics has been filled by looking at other reports issued by Zimstat, the body under whose auspices the Censi are conducted. As is the convention with censi, the age bands given in the 2002 Census and other reports do not divide at a point which separates adults from minors, there being an overlap in the band of those aged 15 - 19. However, applying an accepted demographological formula, a study of the 2002 Census showed an adult population of 6 070 537, or approximately 52% of the population. The 2012 Census put the inter-censal growth rate at a low 1.1%, based solely on fertility and mortality rates, ignoring any migration from the country. Thus, a 2011 report produced in collaboration with Zimstat, the body responsible for the country’s censi, stated the adult population of Zimbabwe to be slightly reduced from that of the 2002 Census at 5,983,253, probably on account of migration. A second report, also by Zimstat, issued in the same month, and using a population of 11,930,038, estimated by extrapolation, suggests the adult population to be slightly higher at 6,151,127 people or 51.56% of the total population.

    On the basis of the foregoing, it seems reasonable to assume an adult population of no more than 52% of the current population of 12,973,808; that is, 6,746 380 people. If, however, the adult population is taken to be the roughly six million claimed by the 2011 reports, the adult population constitutes 46.25% of the total. If the adult population is in fact a lower percentage than 52%, as is likely, the findings here are exacerbated, if higher mitigated. In what follows, it should be borne in mind that it is not necessary to be on the voters’ roll in order to vote in a referendum. It is merely necessary to prove an entitlement to be registered as a voter. Censi statistics are thus of prime importance, rather than voter registration statistics, when considering the Referendum. The addition of 300,000 plus voters to the roll after the release of a digital version of the 2008 roll has been catered for by utilising figures from an unofficially obtained, but almost assuredly accurate, version of the roll as at October, 2010. The addition of voters to the roll after this date (as is presumably the case) would exacerbate the findings here. Removal of persons from the roll (see below) only apparently took place to any significant extent after the 2012 Census. The findings when taking these removals into account are also given here.

    The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has been approached with a written request for detailed polling information pertaining to the Referendum. This request has not elicited any response. As a result this report confines itself to such conclusions as may be made by examining the data at constituency level.

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