3 May 2013

Zimbabwe: ZEC Changes Open New Can of Worms

THE controversial appointments of Justice Rita Makarau and Jacob Mudenda to chair the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) and the Human Rights Commission (HRC) respectively have opened a can of worms on how the MDC formations fell for Zanu PF's trickery during the negotiation process, sources have revealed.

Sources in the MDC-T said soon after the signing of the Global Political Agreement (GPA), Zanu PF gave the MDC parties an opportunity to choose candidates for the two bodies resulting in the appointments of Justice Simpson Mutambanengwe and Regis Austin as Zec and HRC bosses respectively in 2010.

However, Zanu PF made it clear that if the positions were to fall vacant within the lifespan of the GPA, it would be its turn to appoint the heads.

"We were negotiating in good faith and we thought Zanu PF was sincere by allowing the MDC to choose suitable candidates in order to level the political playing field since Zec has been blamed for poorly running the 2008 disputed elections," said a national executive member of the MDC-T.

"The MDC-T decided to settle on Mutambanengwe and Austin hoping the two would professionally run the bodies as the country prepares for general elections."

However, Mutambanengwe was never in charge of Zec, leaving his deputy Joyce Kazembe to run the electoral body.

Sources claim Zanu PF pushed Mutambanengwe to resign so it could appoint its own person.

Mutambanengwe eventually resigned citing ill health but sources say he was put under pressure by Zanu PF.

Austin also resigned as HRC boss citing the commission's lack of independence as well as unwillingness by the inclusive government to adequately fund its operations. The pair's resignations gave Zanu PF an opportunity to appoint its trusted lieutenants, Makarau and Mudenda to run Zec, and HRC respectively.

MDC-T president Morgan Tsvangirai jumped to the defence of the controversial appointments of the two, known to have strong Zanu PF links.

"We checked whether he (Mudenda) is still in the Zanu PF politburo or not; he is not there," Tsvangirai said. "In fact, it is not about his past because everybody has a past; it is about qualifications. He is a lawyer and professional, more so, he is a member of the commission already."

Close sources in the MDC-T said Tsvangirai could not resist the appointments of Makarau and Mudenda - who is still a Zanu PF politburo member - since it was agreed that in the event of a vacancy, Zanu PF would appoint its preferred candidates.

Mudenda's appointment drew a barrage of criticism directed at the principals in the inclusive government, especially Tsvangirai whose party has been calling for reforms in institutions such as Zec and HRC.

Mudenda is a former Zanu PF governor for Matabeleland North and served in that capacity during the Gukurahundi era in which 20 000 of people were killed during the disturbances.

However, MDC-T chief negotiator and Energy minister Elton Mangoma dismissed reports that the MDC parties fell for Zanu PF's tricks.

"Who told you that? We do not publicise our negotiations so I am not going to comment anything on that issue. The best person to comment is your source," Mangoma said.

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