Mutambanengwe to work from Namibia

zim_flagJOHANNESBURG The new chairman of Zimbabwes electoral commission will oversee his Herculean task to overhaul the countrys skewed electoral system from his Namibian base, he said last week.

Former Harare High Court Judge Simpson Mtambanengwe, who sits on the Namibian bench after retiring from his Zimbabwean job in 2004, was last month named by the unity government of President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai as chairman-designate of the new Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).

I have accepted the position in principle and I am awaiting further notifications because they are still in the process of finalising other issues, said Mtambanengwe by phone from the Namibian capital Windhoek. I shall be working from here because I have a fulltime job but I if the need arises needing my attention then we will see.

The new ZEC is part of several commissions including one to oversee the media and another to take charge of human rights issues are part of reforms that Zimbabwes power-sharing government must implement to re-shape and democratise the countrys politics that has been characterised by violence and gross human rights violations almost from independence from Britain in 1980.

But Mtambanengwe, who replaces a pro-Mugabe former military officer and High Court Judge George Chiweshe as head of Zimbabwes electoral management authority, faces by far the toughest job running elections in a country where every major vote over the past decade has produced a contested result.

Mtambanengwe would not be drawn to disclose details about how he plans to go about democratising Zimbabwes electoral system that the opposition says gives Mugabe the privilege of being referee and player on the electoral field. We will see when we get there, was all the judge would say when asked about the task ahead.

Respected in Zimbabwe and in the region after helping reform the Namibia judiciary system after that countrys independence in 1990, Mtambanengwe has worked as acting Chief Justice of the Namibian Supreme Court. He also chaired the body that oversaw Namibias elections held recently.

Mtambanengwe briefly returned to the Zimbabwean bench in 2006 to preside over the corruption trial of then Harare High Court Judge Benjamin Paradza who he found guilty and sentenced to three years in jail. However Paradza did not serve the sentence after skipping the country before sentence.

Paradza’s lawyers had argued during trial that the charges against their client were meant to punish him for embarrassing the government after he (Paradza) in 2003 freed an opposition mayor who had been arrested for holding an illegal political meeting.

The government denied that the corruption case against Paradza was politically motivated.

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