19 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Supreme Court Judge New ZEC Chairperson

Photo: GCIS
President Jacob Zuma meeting with President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara at the Rainbow Towers Hotel in Harare (file photo).

Supreme Court Judge Rita Makarau is to become the next chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), SW Radio Africa learnt on Tuesday.

The former Judge President of the High Court, appointed to the Supreme Court in 2010, came out as the consensus figure when President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai met in Harare on Monday to choose the new ZEC chair.

The principals to the GPA, who included Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, agreed on Makarau during their Monday meeting but refused to identify her to the media.

Tsvangirai explained to journalists that they needed to consult with the candidate first before releasing the name. The former law lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe will replace Simpson Mutambanengwe, the former ZEC chair who resigned last week citing health reasons.

If she agrees to her new appointment, Makarau is expected to take charge of ZEC immediately. SW Radio Africa is reliably informed Makarau's appointment was by consensus, although both the MDC formations know of her past links to ZANU PF.

In the 1990's she was appointed a non-constituency MP by Mugabe before she left parliament to join the bench. Political commentator Daniel Molokele, a former law student of Makarau's at the UZ, said the MDC formations have limited options when it comes to the appointment of the ZEC chair.

The constitution is clear that the chairperson should be an active or retired judge. Since independence all judges, current or retired, have been appointed by Mugabe and may be perceived as close to or pro-ZANU PF. But Makarau apparently received a seal of approval from the MDC formations, who describe her as a principled judge.

'I think in terms of background, she's one of the few judges the MDC formations view as a moderate. I think they can work with her as someone who is professional,' Molokele said.

Another appointment has been that of Jacob Mudenda to replace Professor Reg Austin as the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission.

Molokele offered a damning critique of Mudenda, described as a strong ally of party strongman Emmerson Mnangagwa. He has been alleged that he has been behind a series of human rights abuses, especially in the Matabeleland provinces.

'I find his appointment very difficult to accept. He's one person who hasn't been outspoken on human rights issues. He hasn't been a human rights advocate, he's more of a political appointee than a rights advocate,' Molokele said.

He emphasized that he had no faith in Mudenda's ability to crack the whip on human rights abusers from ZANU PF, a party he belongs to and once served as governor for Matabeleland North.

'He's a former high ranking official of ZANU PF and there's no way you can expect him to crackdown on people from that party...its not going to happen,' Molokele explained.

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