By Alex Bell
13 March 2013
The leaders of the unity government have agreed that Supreme Court Judge Rita Makarau will be sworn in as the head of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, after the referendum.
This was announced by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai at a press conference in Harare on Tuesday. Speaking on behalf of the government principals, Tsvangirai said they had agreed that “it would be improper to have a temporary Chairperson for such a key institution as ZEC and that constitutionally, a substantive chairperson enjoys security of tenure which an acting chairperson does not have.”
“Security of tenure of the Chairperson and Commissioners is critical to the independence of ZEC. The principals expect Justice Makarau to be sworn in soon after the referendum subject to the completion of the procedural requirements under the Constitution,” a statement by Tsvangirai said.
He went on to tell journalists at the press conference that that acting ZEC chairperson Joyce Kazembe was not qualified to run the electoral body.
“Let me say this: The vice-chairperson (Kazembe) will not be chairperson of ZEC when we go for elections,” he said, adding: “We need a qualified judge to run elections. She is not qualified to be in that position.”
The Prime Minister gave no more details about the decision, which is being described as an illegal and unconstitutional move. According to the parliamentary watchdog series Bill Watch, the appointment of the ZEC chair can only be finalised when both the Judicial Service Commission and the Parliamentary Committee on Standing Rules and Orders have been consulted.
Political analyst Clifford Mashiri also questioned if the rules, stipulated by the constitution, had actually been followed in terms of choosing the ZEC chair. He said it was “preposterous” that the MDC has allowed ZANU PF to choose a judge “that is know to have ZANU PF sympathies,” to head such an important body.
“Morgan Tsvangirai is just giving in to Robert Mugabe’s demands,” Mashiri said.
The Prime Minister also announced Tuesday that the Observers Accreditation Committee (OAC) which is responsible for the accreditation of observers at both the referendum and the election must be “re-configured.” He said this needs to done to create “equitable political representation to ensure the political ground is fair and level for all contestants.”
Tsvangirai gave no details about when this ‘reconfiguration’ will happen, despite the referendum now being just three days away.
Analyst Mashiri said on Wednesday that if the unity government was in any way committed to carrying out a successful referendum, the process would be postponed until the issues raised by Tsvangirai have been dealt with.
“The government does not seem interested in this referendum. They only want it rubberstamped so they can have elections. They are trivialising and that is very worrying,” Mashiri said.