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Delimitation underway

Many people do not know much about the role and importance of the Delimitation Commission.

This bulletin provides an overview of the Delimitation Commission and its functions and current activities, as well as its importance to the electoral process.

About the Delimitation Commission

The Delimitation Commission is the body responsible for determining the boundaries of Namibia’s regions and constituencies, and for deciding how many regional councillors should serve on each Regional Council.

The Commission was created under the Namibian Constitution, and was first set in motion by former President, Sam Nujoma, on 23 August 1990 (gazetted on 3 September 1990) in Proclamation No. 12 of 1990 titled “Establishment of the First Delimitation Commission and the Duties thereof”. Its functions are also detailed in the Regional Councils Act.

Specifically, the Proclamation outlined the duties of the Delimitation Commission as follows:
(a) to determine the boundaries of the regions and, subject to the provisions of Article 102(4) of the Namibian Constitution, the boundaries of Local Authorities, into which Namibia is to be divided for the purposes of holding Local Authority and Regional Council elections;
(b) to determine the number of persons of which each Regional Council shall consist;
(c) to determine the number of constituencies into which each region shall be divided; and
(d) to fix the boundaries of each such constituency.

In carrying out its work, the Delimitation Commission considers a number of important factors, including the number of eligible voters in a region, its geographical features, infrastructure, resources and means of communication, its socio-economic characteristics and circumstances, the boundaries of districts and the areas of local authorities and settlement areas.

Importantly, the Constitution emphasises that the work of the Delimitation Commission in terms of setting regional boundaries is meant to be “geographical only, without any reference to the race, colour or ethnic origin of the inhabitants of such areas.” The duties of the Commission are pivotal in the context of national and regional elections as they affect the registration of voters, determine the size of the Regional Councils, and affect the location and size of the various constituencies. Additionally, decisions of the Commission about constituency boundaries could influence how well a political party fares in an election. The independence of this important Commission is therefore critical.

The Delimitation Commission is an independent body composed of three members – a chairperson (who according to Constitution should be a judge of the High Court or the Supreme Court), and two additional members. All three are appointed by the President with the approval of Parliament.

In carrying out the work of determining Namibia’s boundaries for constituencies and regions, the Delimitation Commission has to take into account factors such as the number of people who ordinarily reside in the concerned areas and who are eligible to vote. The initial proclamation on the First Delimitation Commission also states that these boundaries must be fixed in a manner such that “the number of eligible voters residing in the various constituencies falling in the same region are as nearly equal as reasonably practicable”. Other considerations that the Commission may make include “the geographical features of a region, the demographical distribution of eligible voters within the regions, and the relevant infrastructure and resources in the region”.

According to the proclamation, upon completion of this process, a report has to be submitted to the President, noting the findings of the Commission, and including lists of the various regions, constituencies and local authorities determined by the Commission, and their recommendations with respect to their names and boundaries, as well as a map detailing these names and boundaries into which Namibia is to be divided.

What is delimitation?

Boundary delimitation (or simply delimitation) is the process of fixing the boundaries of constituencies and regions. Boundaries are sometimes redefined from time to time by a Delimitation Commission often to reflect new population patterns. Attempts to fix boundaries in a discriminatory manner or to give advantage to a particular political party is called gerrymandering.

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Election Watch is a project of the Institute for Public Policy Research in Windhoek, Namibia. Election Watch is funded by the European Union and the Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives.