Opposition parties have warned incoming Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) chairperson Priscilla Chigumba that she will be watched all the way as she prepares to lead the country into a watershed general election in the next few months.
Reacting to President Emmerson Mnangagwa's appointment of Chigumba as head of the country's poll management body, MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu while acknowledging Chigumba as a respected jurist warned she has her work cut out.
"Justice Priscilla Chigumba is an astute legal mind with a strong sense of independence and integrity. As the MDC, we are confident that if she is given the proper latitude to perform her duties as the new ZEC chairperson, she will definitely excel.
"The main challenge that we have got in Zimbabwe is that there are always some shadowy but extremely powerful political forces behind the scenes that invariably dictate the manner in which our elections are conducted," Gutu said.
He called on Chigumba to exercise her powers as provided for by the country's Constitution.
"We expect Justice Chigumba to stand her ground fearlessly and authoritatively. She must not be a push over.
"We know that there will be sinister and scandalous political forces behind the scenes who will relentlessly seek to direct the manner in which ZEC conducts its operations.
"Justice Chigumba must rise to the occasion and perform her duties with honour and integrity. We will be watching her closely," the MDC-T said.
However People's Democratic Party (PDP) spokesperson, Jacob Mafume, accused Mnangagwa of perpetuating former President Robert Mugabe's centralisation of power and abuse of the law.
"We as a party are worried that a key participant in the elections gets to choose a chairperson on his own without the involvement of a neutral body or any other person. If he (Mnangagwa) wants to do things differently he has to be willing to forgo some of Mugabe's unnecessary powers which were meant to give him an unfair advantage because of his un-electability," said Mafume.
Mafume said it was difficult to see how Chigumba could be different given she owes her new job to "one man".
"How will she be independent when she owes her appointment to one man alone? Can someone please tell the president that removing people who do not like you and replacing them with those who like you is not reform," the PDP spokesperson asked rhetorically.
Kurauone Chihwayi, spokesperson of the MDC led by former Industry Minister Welshman Ncube, concurred with Gutu that Chigumba has an unenviable task ahead.
"Chigumba has an uphill task ahead of her. She must be advised that she is coming in to serve the interests of starving citizens. Our eyes and ears are still open, we will be watching her behaviour 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Chigumba should bring with her the necessary tools to stop Zanu PF's criminal activities. The MDC is demanding fair play and Zec sanitization from Chigumba," Chihwayi said.
Chigumba was appointed to take over as ZEC chairperson from Justice Rita Makarau who resigned under a cloud in the aftermath of former President Robert Mugabe's resignation under pressure from the army last November.