The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Mudenda Appointed New Rights Chief

Principals to the Global Political Agreement have appointed Mr Jacob Mudenda as chairperson of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission. President Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara met yesterday and agreed on the person to chair the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission whom they would announce once they have informed him.

Addressing journalists at Charter House yesterday, PM Tsvangirai said a person to replace Justice Simpson Mutambanengwe as ZEC chairperson had been identified while Mr Mudenda, who was already a commissioner, would replace Professor Regis Austin.

Prof Austin resigned last year as Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission chairperson.

He resigned citing "incapacitation" of the constitutional body.

Justice Mutambanengwe resigned last week on health grounds.

PM Tsvangirai declined to divulge the identity of the new ZEC chairperson whom he said was a sitting judge.

"Let me emphasise that Justice Mutambanengwe was not forced out, but resigned voluntarily. Before he resigned he had an operation. He wanted to stay close to his doctors. We have agreed on a name but I can't reveal because the person might not be aware of it," PM Tsvangirai said.

He was accompanied by DPM Mutambara at the Press conference.

The PM defended the appointment of Mr Mudenda, a former provincial governor and Zanu-PF provincial chairperson.

On ZHRC, the PM said former Africa University vice chancellor Prof Rukudzo Murapa would also be a commissioner.

Turning to the referendum slated for March 16, the PM said principals agreed to stick to the date and go on a vigorous campaign to educate people on the draft Constitution.

He said US$100 million was required for the referendum.

He said Government would vigorously work to raise the money through its own resources and the private sector.

The PM said voting in the referendum would be held in one day, saying a single day was enough.

Money to be raised with the United Nation Development Programme should be channelled towards elections, he said.

"All the three principals are committed for an enabling environment for free and fair elections. The issue of media reforms is important," he said.

The PM said both the public media and private media were culpable for spewing hate speech and a meeting would soon be convened with editors of the organisations to discuss the need to discharge their role in terms of the GPA.

He said there would be a code of conduct for security services to govern their role .

Other issues that came up for discussion, he said, were the issue of election observers, voter registration and inspection, the role of war veterans and traditional leaders and the need to harmonise laws with the new constitution.

Boards of directors for the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings, Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe and Mass Media Trust would be constituted in terms of an agreed formula.

He said the issuance of radio licences by BAZ to Zimbabwe Newspapers and AB Communications led by Supa Mandiwanzira needed to be revisited.

"Zimpapers are already running a media organisation while Supa wants to contest in the forthcoming election," he said.

DPM Mutambara said it was important to have a credible election.

"We must ensure that elections are credible and legitimate. We are going to make sure that the money is available. A sovereign nation cannot have its major activity funded by foreigners," he said.

Meanwhile, Government says it will skip mobile voter registration if it fails to find money for the programme.

Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa said at least US$21 million was required for the programme that was expected to start on January 3.

Minister Chinamasa yesterday said voter registration was a continuous process and a registration blitz was a "bonus" for people who would not have registered.

He said elections would go ahead even without voter registration by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.

"If the money is found then we can carry out the exercise even parallel to our referendum campaigns, but if there is no money that does not mean that elections will not be held.

"Right now the money for that purpose has not been released. As you know, voter registration is a continuous process and a mobile blitz is merely a bonus to complement what has been going on all along."

Minister Chinamasa said anyone was free to go and register as a voter.

"What we envisaged with the blitz was to set teams at ward level such that we reach out to many people but we are being pulled down by resources. We are trying to raise the money through the private sector, but everyone can become a registered voter today," he said.

Government has tasked a three-member Cabinet Committe chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara to source funds for the referendum and elections from the private sector.

Funds raised through the United Nations Development Programme will only supplement the private sector-supported purse.

Treasury has only released US$2 million that ZEC said would be enough to buy inks to be used during voting.

MDC-T spokesperson Mr Douglas Mwonzora said Government should look for the money for mobile voter registration.

"This is an excuse of going to elections with the current voters roll. Though it is an ongoing process, those who have not registered should be given a chance and those erroneously omitted from the roll should correct that during the exercise.

"The draft Constitution also talks of aliens and they should be given 30 days to register, meaning there is no need of going to elections with a partially disenfranchised voters' roll."

Minister Chinamasa said principals were still consulting on the suitable candidate to replace Justice Mutambanengwe.

"I am still consulting with the principles and that process is not yet complete. Once it is complete, we will be able to announce the replacement," he said.

He said no names had been "dangled" on the table.

"The principals will discuss the issue and anyone can push names to the table. If my advice is sought, I am going to give my principal advice on the suitability of any names mentioned."

Meanwhile, ZEC has said its officials are non-partisan professionals who do not conduct their work along political lines.

Speaking at ZEC's two-day Comparative Experiences Conference on Conflict Management commissioner, Dr Millicent Mombeshora, it was normal for commissioners to have a political party they support, but that was not reflected in their work.

"We are professionals, we are here to serve all Zimbabweans. We don't discharge our duties in line with political parties but as Zimbabweans," she said.

She said their jobs were advertised in the press and they underwent public interviews which included being interviewed by a parliamentary committee.

She was responding to some participants who questioned ZEC's credibility in holding free and fair elections.

Dr Mombeshora said ZEC did not have a problems with election monitors.

She, however, said Zimbabweans were capable of monitoring their own elections as they have the highest literacy rate in Africa

Commissioner Theophilus Gambe said: "The media plays an important role in any society and should at all costs strive to report responsibly in a manner that do not exacerbate conflict. Irresponsible reporting leads to misinformed citizenry and fuels conflict."

"Timely in the sense that the country will be involved in a constitutional referendum followed by general elections. The said two events cannot achieve their desired results premised on peace and tranquillity."

Ms Eunice Bere from Africa University's Institute of Peace, Leadership and Governance said conflict in elections was caused by placing monetary value on winning elections.

"Political economy of conflict such as poverty and unemployment creates susceptibility to perpetration of violence," she said.

Ambassador Chris Mutsvangwa said Zimbabweans were a united people and the criticism of ZEC composition was uncalled for.

He said the functioning of the Global Political Agreement showed that the civil service has served President Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai well.

"If President Mugabe and Tsvangirai (Prime Minister) do not send each other to jail why do we have to purge each other?"

Mozambique Electoral Commission president Professor Joao Leopoldo da Costa said from his experience in his country and across the region there was nothing unusual with the composition of ZEC.

He said the electoral process must be clear and if there were conflicts they must be discussed internally and not in the media.

"The media has an important role and it must be independent. They must report what they see and they should bear in mind the consequences of what they print," he said.

Prof da Costa said Zimbabweans should be wary of international institutions that seek to interfere in their electoral processes in order to advance foreign economic interests.

Prof da Costa said institutions handling the electoral processes should look out for external forces that may seek to participate as international observers to discredit the results.

"There are economic interests in elections. Because of the European crisis, they might want the cake of your elections. You must be careful not to be manipulated by these forces," he said.

Prof da Costa warned ZEC officials against engaging in corrupt activities as it reduced the transparency of the institution.

He also urged the media to report responsibly.

In an interview at the sidelines of the workshop Zimbabwe Youth in Alliance president Mr Moses Mutyasira said his party would urge its party to vote "yes" for the referendum in support of President Mugabe.

"We are a youths political party, we are more like the sons and daughters of Zanu-PF," he said.

Mr Mutyasira said calls by opposition parties calling for the disbandment of ZEC were unfair in a democratic and peaceful country like Zimbabwe.

He said the youths were ready to safeguard the interests of the country.

The workshop was organised by ZEC in collaboration with JOMIC, Organ for National Healing Reconciliation and integration, Zimbabwe Media Commission, Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, Zimbabwe Republic Police, civil society and the church supported by the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa.

It was attended by representatives of the country's political parties, civic society and the media and was aimed at exploring best practices for preventing, managing and resolving conflict before, during and after elections.

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