PRESIDENT Mugabe yesterday swore in Justice Rita Makarau and Mr Jacob Mudenda as chairpersons of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, respectively, at State House.Justice Makarau, who is also a Supreme Court Judge, takes over from Justice Simpson Mutambanengwe who retired last month on medical grounds.
Mr Mudenda took over from Professor Regis Austin who resigned three months ago.
Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa said the swearing in of Justice Makarau put paid to a court challenge mounted by National Constitutional Assembly chairperson Professor Lovemore Madhuku.
Prof Madhuku had filed a Supreme Court challenge on the basis that ZEC deputy chairperson Mrs Joyce Kazembe did not meet the legal requirements to act as chair since the Constitution stipulated that the incumbent should either be Judge of the High Court or Supreme Court or someone qualified as such.
"It means ZEC now has a substantive chairperson in view of the fact that it will run two major events, the referendum and elections," said Minister Chinamasa.
He said there was no basis for Prof Madhuku to mount the court challenge because any organisation at some point would suffer a challenge where the post of a chairperson would become vacant for various reasons.
"It's nonsensical to suggest that such an organisation would go without a chair. Mrs Kazembe was legitimately acting as chair," he said.
The Minister said there was no need for the Supreme Court to hear the case because the outcome was of no consequence given the swearing in of Justice Makarau.
"She will remain a judge the same way as what Justice (George) Chiweshe did when he was ZEC chairperson, he remained judge of the High Court," said Minister Chinamasa.
Justice Makarau said she was aware of the "daunting" task ahead of her.
"My priority is to find out what decisions have been made and why they were done, so that they become my own as well," she said.
She commended Mrs Kazembe for holding fort before she assumed office.
"It's going to be a daunting task. I am coming in to join a process that has already started. Mrs Kazembe has been doing a wonderful job," she said.
Mrs Kazembe said all was now set for the referendum.
Speaking at the same occasion, Mr Mudenda expressed optimism that the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission would discharge its work consistently with its terms of reference.
"We hope that we will be able to achieve the mandate given to us by the enabling Act and other national, and international statutes," he said.
Asked if he would be able to discharge his responsibilities professionally given his past link with one of the political parties in the Global Political Agreement, Mr Mudenda said decisions would be collective and guided by the law.
"We are guided by the Paris Principle. There is no way my background would affect me. We work collectively and by consensus," he said.
Justice Rita Makarau has urged Zimbabweans to vote peacefully today.
She told a Press conference in Harare yesterday that all things were in place for voting in the referendum.
By yesterday evening, the deployment of polling officers was 99 percent complete.
"In areas where roads were inaccessible, polling officers have used helicopters. Those who have arrived at the polling stations have already started rehearsals," she said.
Today, polling stations would open for the voting at 7am and close in the evening at 7pm.
All polling stations would hold official opening ceremonies at 6:30am and Justice Makarau urged all polling officers and observers to be at the polling stations early for the opening ceremony.
ZEC printed 12 million ballot papers for the exercise, while 7 000 of them were spoiled during printing.
Justice Makarau said the serial numbers of the papers would be advised to the public later.
There are 9 456 polling stations countrywide.
"ZEC recruited 70 000 officers, including support staff who have been adequately trained and have since been deployed," said Justice Makarau.
There are over 1 500 observers accredited at the three participating registration centres in Harare, Bulawayo and Masvingo.
Justice Makarau said voter education had been conducted in eight days by ZEC officials and by other civic organisations.
Counting of the results would be done at the polling stations, she said.
She said observers would receive results before they are sent to district, provincial and national command centres.
Observers, voters and election officers would not be allowed to use mobile phones in polling stations.
"Only returning officers are allowed to use their personal phones," said Justice Makarau.
ZEC has engaged 70 000 polling officers, including supervisors and returning officers.
The commission also increased polling stations from 9 449 to 9 456 after discovering new areas that needed to be covered.
Observers have since been furnished with the code of conduct.
Only media personnel are allowed to take pictures, but not those of people marking their ballot papers.
Provincial, district and constituency command centres have been established, while the national command centre would be located at the International Conference Centre in Harare.
ZEC deputy chairperson Mrs Joyce Kazembe said only observers from those countries that imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe were denied registration.
She said ZEC had registered several other foreign observers from countries such as Russia.
"We have accredited embassy personnel and we stated that we only required five members per mission."
Results of the constitutional referendum are expected within five days after voting.
Meanwhile, in Mutorashanga preparations have gone well and the polling officers were deployed on Wednesday.
Most of the polling officers yesterday said they were raring to go for the poll and confirmed that they had been adequately provided with the necessary equipment.
Voters also expressed their willingness to vote overwhelmingly for the draft constitution.
"We are ready for the referendum but we believe we should have been given copies of the draft constitution earlier. We however have confidence in our leaders and this is the law that would take Zimbabwe forward," Ms Tsitsi Muchenje of Tafara 1 in Mutorashanga said.
Voters in Mutorashanga commended ZEC for setting up several polling stations in their area to curb travelling long distances.