By Alex Bell
14 March 2013
The National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) has filed yet another legal challenge as part of their efforts to have this weekend’s referendum postponed, arguing in fresh papers that the acting chair of the Electoral Commission (ZEC) is ‘unqualified’.
Joyce Kazembe is set to remain as the acting ZEC chair for the referendum that, barring any last minute court decisions, will go ahead on Saturday. After that, Supreme Court Judge Rita Makarau is set to be sworn in as the head of the electoral body before a general election. This was announced by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Tuesday.
But the NCA, whose previous attempts to have the referendum postponed have been in vain, are now arguing that Kazembe is not qualified for the role as acting ZEC chair. The group filed an urgent application at the Supreme Court challenging Kazembe’s appointment, stating this is another reason why Saturday’s poll should be put on hold.
NCA spokesperson Blessing Vava told SW Radio Africa on Thursday that Kazembe’s appointment was in breach of the current constitution, which stipulates that the chairperson of ZEC must be a Judge or a former Judge of the Supreme Court or the High Court or a person qualified for appointment as such as a Judge.
“Kazembe is not a judge or a lawyer. As the NCA we feel that the credibility of the referendum process will be highly questionable if it is held under the management of an unqualified ZEC chair,” Vava said.
He explained that this should be reason enough for Saturday’s vote to be postponed, saying there needs to be the appointment of a substantive chairperson or a suitably qualified acting chairperson before the referendum is held. But he added they are not hopeful that this will be the case, stating: “The government seems determined to go ahead with this referendum despite the legitimate concerns being raised.”
He meanwhile criticised Prime Minister Tsvangirai for recently moving to exonerate ZEC for the role it played in the 2008 election. Tsvangirai on Tuesday defended the electoral body, blaming what he called an “underhand” force for the “shenanigans” that led to the disputed election situation almost five years ago.
Vava said this was a complete u-turn for the MDC-T leader, who has previously called for the body to be completely reconstituted on the grounds that its members were ZANU PF aligned. Vava said that “the Prime Minister is now too comfortable in office,” leading to this u-turn.
Nhlanhla Dube, the spokesperson for the Welshman Ncube MDC, also had strong words for Tsvangirai in the wake of his statement on Tuesday. Dube was quoted by the NewsDay newspaper as saying that Tsvangirai’s “closeness” to Robert Mugabe had compromised him.
“All we want to say is that his (Tsvangirai’s) closeness to Mugabe has become a problem. That remains a question to us which can only be answered by him,” Dube said.