Government defends Makarau portfolios Justice Makarau
Justice Makarau

Justice Makarau

Nqobile Tshili Bulawayo Bureau
Government has defended Justice Rita Makarau for chairing the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and sitting on the bench, saying her appointments are constitutional and there is no conflict of interest. Justice Makarau is a Supreme Court judge, secretary for the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and ZEC chairperson.

During Senate’s Question and Answer session on Thursday, Midlands MDC-T Senator Lilian Timveos said Justice Makarau’s roles were in conflict and there might be a challenge in the event of a disputed election. However, the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Retired Major-General Happyton Bonyongwe, said conflict of interest issues 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. “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.”

Minister Bonyongwe said in understanding Justice Makarau’s roles as JSC secretary, Supreme Court judge and chairperson of ZEC, the public should know that each body was independent of the other.

Rtd Maj-Gen Bonyongwe

Rtd Maj-Gen Bonyongwe

“A distinction between the JSC and the judiciary must clearly be spelt out. The JSC is an administrative body which does not give instructions to judges in relation to cases before the courts. The Judiciary is not answerable to the JSC, but to the Chief Justice of Zimbabwe. Judges have security of tenure and have no basis to owe allegiance in any form to the secretary of the Judicial Services Commission. I hope I have clarified these roles,” he said.

Minister Bonyongwe said there was nothing wrong with a sitting judge being appointed as the chairperson of ZEC as that was in line with the country’s Constitution.

“Where the President exercises his prerogative to appoint a judge to head ZEC, the dual roles of judge and head of ZEC cannot be avoided nor faulted,” he said. It may also be important to note that from the time Justice Makarau was appointed chairperson of ZEC in 2013, she has not sat in court to preside over any matter. In essence, therefore, the issue of conflict of roles is unfounded and an unnecessary baseless argument.”

Minister Bonyongwe said Justice Makarau was appointed as a Supreme Court judge due to her diligence and dedication to the legal fraternity, which should be commended.

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