As the eagerly awaited 2018 elections draw closer by each passing day, President Mugabe has recently made appointments and re-appointments to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission following the expiry of terms for the then incumbent members.
The appointments have come at a time opposition parties are calling for electoral reforms including a ZEC that is impartial. A joint body comprising 18 opposition parties including MDC-T is planning a demonstration this Friday, under the banner New Electoral Reform Agenda (NERA) and Coalition for Democrats (CODE).
Last month President Robert Mugabe made appointments to the body in accordance to the constitution. The appointments to ZEC are made in terms of section 238(1) (b) of the constitution- reads the President appoints from the list of nominees submitted by the Parliament’s Committee on Standing Rules and Orders (CSRO).
Section 237 of the Constitution provides for the procedure to be followed by the CSRO in deciding on the list of nominees. It must advertise the vacancies and invite the public to make nominations. It must then conduct public interviews for the prospective candidates, prepare a list of nominees, and submit the list to the President who then makes his choice from the list.
There is also a provision for re-appointments, subject to the restriction that no one may be appointed to serve more than 12 years in all, whether continuous or not- section 238(5).
In May, the CRSO conducted interviews to fill six vacancies on the ZEC after the expiry of terms for those who were serving at the end of March this year. After conducting public interviews the body submitted a list of nine nominees to the President, who appointed the following six new members include Dr Ngoni Kundidzora, Netsai Mushonga, and Faith Sabeta, while Joyce Kazembe, Daniel Chigaru, and Sibongile Ndlovu were reappointed. They were sworn into office on 7 July 2016.
ZEC was established as an Independent Constitutional Commission by the Amendment 19 to the former constitution in 2013. Its first members were sworn on 31 March 2010, included Justice Simpson Mutambanengwe as chairperson, Joyce Kazembe, deputy chair, John Chigaru, Sibongile Ndlovu, and Mkululi Nyati among others. In terms of section 238(5) ZEC commissioners serve a six year term of office and may be reappointed, subject to maximum of 12 years.
In February 2013, Justice Mutambanengwe resigned, Kazembe acted in his capacity until March 2013 when Justice Makarau took over. On 31 July 2013 poling day in the Harmonised Election Commissiner Nyati resigned, with Commissioner Feltoe resigning a few days later on 5 August. The two vacancies were filled in 2015.
Currently, Justice Rita Makarau is the ZEC chairperson, and has served in that position since appointment in 2013, in terms with section 238(2) of the constitution that requires that the chair person should be a judge or former judge, or to be a person qualified to be a judge.
Justice Makarau became a High Court judge in 2000, and was appointed Judge President of the court in 2006 and broke record as until to date, she is the only women to have served as Judge President. In 2010 she was appointed as Judge of the Supreme Court, and Acting Secretary for the Judicial Service Commission in the same year until now. Makarau whose ZEC term ends in 2019, and will be eligible for another term is also the current President of the SADC Elections Commission Forum.
ZEC re-appointments include Daniel Chigaru, who was general manager for the ZITF from 2003 until retirement in 2013 and was commissioner from 2010, until March 2016, Joyce Kazembe has a long history of service on election supervision and management bodies. She served on the Election Supervisory Commission from 2002 and as a commissioner in 2006 pursuant to Constitutional Amendment 17 of 2005.
Sibongile Ndlovu, is a teacher by profession, and first became involved in the electoral process in Zimbabwe in 1995 when she served as election officer, and worked for the Election Supervisory Commission as voter education supervisor also.
The new appointments include Dr Ngoni Kundidzora, a legal academic who has also worked as an assistant professor of Law at Ethiopia’s Civil Service University, his ZEC term will end in 2022. Netsai Mushonga who once worked for Amnesty International Zimbabwe, Centre for Conflict Resolution in South Africa, and was instrumental in coordinating campaigns for the Domestic violence Act among other things was also appointed.
Over the years, ZEC has been under attack from some sections of the society, who accused the body of being partial. This current crop of members is the ones who have been given the mandate until 2018 when the nation is expected to go for the polls.