Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC)chairperson Justice Rita Makarau has resigned. Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi confirmed the resignation yesterday, saying she did not give reasons for quitting.
Zimbabwe holds harmonised elections next year and Justice Makarau was leading the process of coming up with a new voters’ roll. Said Minister Ziyambi: “Yes, she sent her resignation yesterday (Thursday) and I saw it today in the morning as I spent the day in Parliament on Thursday. She just indicated she wants to resign from ZEC, but she did not give any reasons.”
According to the Constitution of Zimbabwe, under Section 238, the ZEC chairperson is appointed by the President.
Reads Section 238: “There is a commission to be known as Zimbabwe Electoral Commission consisting of (a) a chairperson appointed by the President after consultation with the Judicial Services Commission and the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders and (b) eight other members appointed by the President from a list of not fewer than twelve nominees submitted by the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders.”
The Constitution dictates that the chairperson of ZEC should be a judge or a former judge or a person qualified for appointment as a judge.
It further states that “if the appointment of a chairperson to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is not consistent with a recommendation of the Judicial Services Commission, the President must cause the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders to be informed as soon as practicable.”
The Constitution also states that members of ZEC should be Zimbabwean citizens and chosen for their integrity and experience and for their competence in the conduct of affairs in the public and private sector.
Members of ZEC are appointed for a six-year term and maybe re-appointed for one such further term, but no person maybe appointed to or serve the commission after he or she has been a member for one or more periods, whether continuous or not, that amount to 12 years.
Some political parties had in the past raised concern over Justice Makarau chairing ZEC and sitting on the bench, citing conflict of interests.
Justice Makarau is a Supreme Court judge, secretary for the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) and was also ZEC chairperson before she resigned from that post on Thursday.
Former Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Retired Major General Happyton Bonyongwe once said conflict of interest did not arise, as the appointments were Constitutional.
“If elections were to be contested in court, there is only one role which Justice Makarau will play,” he said while responding to a question in Parliament last month.
“She will be a litigant. Since the coming into force of the 2013 Constitution and the appointment of Justice Makarau as head of ZEC in the same year, numerous election petitions and challenges have been filed in the Magistrates’ Courts, High Court, Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court.
“The issue of Justice Makarau being Secretary of the JSC and head of ZEC has not interfered with the decisional independence of judicial officers seized with such matters and neither have appointments of contact or conflict been created.”
Efforts to get a comment from Justice Makarau were fruitless last night.