JUSTICE minister Happyton Bonyongwe has defended Justice Rita Makarau’s tripartite role of being Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chairperson, secretary of the Judicial Services Commission and a judge of the Supreme Court, saying there was nothing illegal in her occupation of the three offices.
by VENERANDA LANGA
The issue came up in Senate last week after Midlands senator Lillian Timveos (MDC-T) demanded to know if Makarau would not be found conflicted in the event that election results were contested.
“Let me start by highlighting that Justice Makarau is a Supreme Court judge who has risen to this post through her vast experience on the bench, as well as immense dedication and diligence to the legal fraternity,” Bonyongwe said.
“She is also the chairperson of Zec by virtue of section 238(2) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, which says the Zec chairperson must be a judge or a former judge or person qualified for appointment as a judge,” he said, adding there was nothing wrong with the appointment of a sitting judge as the chairperson of Zec as it was in line with the Constitution.
Bonyongwe said since Makarau was appointed chairperson of Zec in 2013, she had not sat in court to preside over any matter, making the issue of conflict of roles unfounded and unnecessarily a baseless argument.
“Now turning to the third role that Justice Makarau plays as the secretary of the JSC; it is to be noted that the JSC’s structure has not yet been concurred by Treasury. As a result, the JSC secretariat does not have permanent staff. Justice Makarau is merely on secondment as the acting secretary for the purposes of assisting with the running of the Commission’s activities,” Bonyongwe said.
“She is a judge of the Supreme Court because this is the post she holds due to her experience and hard work. She is chairperson of Zec appointed by the President in fulfilment of the Constitution whereby the chairperson must be a judge and lastly Justice Makarau is the acting secretary seconded to the Judicial Services Commission.” Bonyongwe said.
On election results being challenged, Bonyongwe said Makarau would play the role of litigant, adding that her triple role in Zec, JSC and as a judge have not interfered with the independence of judicial officers seized with such matters.