(Last Updated on February 12, 2013 by Editor)
ZIMBABWE – Zimbabwe Elections Commission chairperson Retired Justice Simpson Victor Mutambanengwe has resigned.
This comes a few months before the referendum on the draft Constitution and harmonised elections slated for this year.
Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa yesterday confirmed the development, saying Justice Mutambanengwe resigned on health grounds. “Retired Justice Simpson Mutambanengwe tendered his resignation from the chairmanship of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission today,” he said.
“He tendered his resignation to President Mugabe and His Excellency accepted it. The resignation is on the grounds of health.”
Minister Chinamasa said the resignation is with effect from February 20 and his replacement would be announced after the completion of consultations.
Justice Mutambanengwe has been in Namibia for sometime where he was said to be completing some assignments in Namibia where he worked as a judge of the Supreme Court.
His deputy Mrs Joyce Kazembe was steering ZEC’s activities in his absence. “For the meantime, I am consulting with the three principals to the Global Political Agreement on a suitable replacement,” said Minister Chinamasa.
“The public will be informed about the new replacement when a decision has been reached.” The ZEC chairperson is appointed by the President in consultation with the Judicial Service Commission and the Parliamentary Committee on Standing Rules and Orders.
The chairperson must be a judge or former judge of the Supreme Court or the High Court, or a person qualified for appointment as such. Justice Mutambanengwe was appointed ZEC chairperson on March 31, 2010 in terms of Constitutional Amendment Number 19 (Act 1 of 2009), which was a result of the Global Political Agreement.
He took over from Justice George Chiweshe who was later appointed Judge President of the High Court. Justice Mutambanengwe is a London-trained lawyer who was admitted as an advocate there in 1963. He briefly practised on the bar in London from 1963 to 1964 and was later admitted as an advocate to the then Rhodesian Bar in 1964.
Justice Mutambanengwe then practised as an advocate and later as a legal practitioner in Zimbabwe from 1979 to 1986. In 1986, he was appointed a High Court judge in Zimbabwe and later, in 1994, was appointed High Court judge in Namibia — on secondment by the Zimbabwean Government — where he also served on the Namibian Supreme Court bench.
Justice Mutambanengwe’s term was expected to expire in 2016 at the same time with those of the other eight ZEC commissioners. The commissioners were appointed by the President from a list of not fewer than 12 nominees submitted to him by the Parliamentary Committee on Standing Rules and Orders.
In respect of the eight commissioners appointed under this new system, the Parliamentary Committee on Standing Rules and Orders first invited applications for the posts. It then shortlisted applicants who were subjected to a vigorous public interviewing process by a panel of parliamentarians.
The Constitution provisions required that commissioners be chosen for their integrity and their experience and competence in the conduct of affairs in the public or private sector. ZEC is preparing for a voter registration and education as part of initial stages for this year’s general elections and the constitutional referendum.
The electoral body has been meeting members of the executive led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and one of the key issues that came out was the need to fund voter education programmes.