HARARE – Simpson Mutambanengwe, the ex-Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairperson insists he quit his job because his ailing health did not give him enough strength to spearhead the forthcoming watershed election, even though he is not abdicating from his Namibia judicial duties.
Mutambanengwe had headed the electoral commission since 2010 when he was appointed as a consensus candidate by the three ruling parties in the inclusive government.
He steps down just a month before a crucial referendum on a new constitution that is expected to act as a litmus test for the reformed commission.
While leaders offered their support for Mutambanengwe’s decision, last week’s announcement took many by surprise, spawning speculation that he did not want his reputation tainted by running a flawed and under-resourced election.
While Mutambanengwe, a former Zimbabwean Supreme Court judge who was serving as acting Chief Justice in the Namibian Supreme Court, claims he is quitting for health reasons, he is in fact heading back to Namibia to take up more duties in the current Supreme Court session.
He says he resigned from the Namibian Supreme Court in 2002, and says from that time he would be assigned jobs both in the High Court and Supreme Court and sometimes sit on the bench.
“I am going back because there is work I have to go and do in the current Supreme Court session,” he said.
“I have been involved with a Commission of Inquiry from August to December.”
A spritely Mutambanengwe said he loved his country dearly.
“I am a citizen of Zimbabwe, my home is here,” he added.
Supreme Court judge Rita Makarau has been chosen the new Zec chairperson through a conclave of principals President Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputy Arthur Mutambara. – Gift Phiri, Political Editor