Supreme Court judge Justice Rita Makarau, who is also the acting chief executive of the Judicial Service Commission, has been appointed the acting chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).
Makarau, the former High Court Judge replaces Justice Simpson Mutambanengwe who was appointed chairman in 2010.
The respected Mutambanengwe resigned on health grounds. Justice Mutambanengwe was a consensus figure who served at the Zimbabwe High Court before moving to the Namibian bench where he worked for more than a decade, including as acting chief justice.
Some human rights groups and political analysts though say Makarau is no consensus builder pointing at her alleged links to President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party.
Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa confirmed the development in a press statement. Chinamasa said under the constitution, the president will be required to consult the JSC and the Parliamentary Committee on Standing Rules and Orders before confirming the appointment.
Chinamasa stated that Justice Makarau will be acting chairperson from the date of appointment to the end of December, a period in which she will be responsible for running the referendum and the harmonized elections as well as doing the report on the elections.
Justice Makarau became Zimbabwe’s first female Judge President in 2006. But in 2010 she was promoted to the Supreme Court and was replaced by former Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairman George Chiweshe.
But the London based think tank, Africa confidential says Makarau was apparently kicked upstairs because she lacked the political stamina to save Zanu-PF from the embarrassment of losing court cases against Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change.
Human rights lawyer, Jeremiah Bamu of the Zimbabwe lawyers says Makarau has the potential to rise to the occasion.
Makarau's new appointment comes after an agreement was hammered between President Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Monday.