Fungi Kwaramba Political Editor
A BLEND of women, youths and people living with disabilities now constitutes the new Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) that was sworn in by President Mnangagwa at State House in Harare yesterday.
In the newly-constituted commission, women are in the majority while formerly marginalised groups and communities have been given a place to run the country’s electoral processes starting with the delimitation exercise to determine constituency boundaries for next year’s harmonised elections.
The six commissioners — namely Ms Catherine Mpofu, Mrs Abigail Millicent Mohadi Ambrose, Mrs Janet Mbetu Nzvenga, Mr Kudzai Shava, Mrs Rosewita Marutare, and Mr Shepherd Manhivi – took their oaths before President Mnangagwa in the presence of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Dr Misheck Sibanda and senior Government officials.
After taking her oath of office, Mrs Mohadi-Ambrose, who hails from Matabeleland South Province, promised to be a voice for smaller communities, youths, and women as the country edges closer to the 2023 harmonised elections.
“Being a commissioner on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission for me means highlighting issues of electoral education especially when it comes to women, youths, and marginalised communities, because personally, I am a Venda and I come from a very small community so reaching out to communities that are not usually covered is my goal,” she said.
Mrs Mohadi-Ambrose alongside five other commissioners were appointed in terms of Sections 237 and 238 of the Constitution which mandate the Parliamentary Committee on Standing Rules and Orders (CSRO) to nominate 12 candidates for selection by the President to serve on the electoral management body.
One of the new commissioners, Mr Kudzai Shava, who is a doctoral student, an expert on disability matters and is visually impaired, said he represents a constituency that seeks to have its needs and expectations captured and implemented during the electoral cycle.
“I have been working with organisations for people with disabilities who happen to have chosen me for consideration to this position. I am so glad that at least I am going to represent their needs in the commission and set that as an example for other independent commissions that disability is a right and that disability is an issue that they should consider when they are doing their duties”.
Mr Shava said there are several challenges that disabled persons face during elections such as access to polling stations and assisted voting.
“Those are areas that the Commission has to look into, do research, and have consultations. Of course, the Commission has been doing that but I will also assist in that regard to ensure that technical issues are dealt with”.
The term of office of the outgoing commissioners, namely Mrs Joyce Kazembe, Mr Daniel Chigaru, Mrs Sibongile Ndlovu, Mrs Netsai Mushonga, Dr Ngoni Kundidzora and Mrs Faith Sebata expired on July 6.
After the interviews, CSRO presented 12 names to the President and the six, who are representative of the country’s regions, gender and also demography, were the successful candidates.
CSRO, which is a multi-party parliamentary committee, received 72 nominations to consider the suitability of the applicants who were whittled to 32 candidates that went for public interviews broadcast live on ZBC and other online media outlets.
Zec chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba said the new commissioners will hit the ground running as the country is in the midst of the crucial delimitation exercise.
“I am very pleased to welcome the incoming commissioners, especially given the skills set that each of them is bringing to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. I am also pleased to have a full complement now that we are in the midst of pre-delimitation activities. Each of these commissioners will be assigned a province to supervise, each will be sitting on the Multiparty Liaison Committees in the districts, in the provinces where hopefully the issues surrounding delimitation will be discussed”.
Justice Chigumba said the commission is determined to have an inclusive delimitation process that will have buy-in from all stakeholders, including traditional leaders.
“We are hoping to proceed with the delimitation exercise on a consensus-building aspect where anybody who is not happy with proposed boundaries will be at liberty to express their unhappiness in the multiparty liaison Committees. We will rope in the local leadership, the chiefs, and the headmen, they know their boundaries. We are hoping that these commissioners, each commissioner on a full-time basis, will be superintending the Multiparty Liaison Committees and ensuring that our delimitation process is a smooth one. The new commissioners have to literally hit the ground running”.
But before the commissioners start their work, like in any organisation, they will have to be trained on what the Constitution, the Electoral Act, and other laws expect of them.
Asked whether they will be another voter registration blitz, Justice Chigumba said while the present voters’ roll is for purposes of delimitation, itself a crucial step in preparation for the holding of elections, the commission will consider another exercise.