Tuesday, July 30, 2013

(SUNDAY MAIL ZW)Zec’s Iron Ladies
Sunday, 14 July 2013 00:00
Lincoln Towindo

In February this year, Zimbabwe scored a first. The appointment of Justice Rita Makarau to chair the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) marked an era-defining moment in the country’s history. Along with renowned administrator Mrs Joyce Kazembe as second-in-command at Zec, elections in Zimbabwe were officially placed under the watch of women for the first time.

Given that 2013 was an election year, placing two women at the helm of the electoral body was interpreted by some sceptics as a “gamble” and had its fair share of criticism and praise.

Some people wondered: Could the authorities have been off the mark by placing women in the hot seat traditionally considered a “manly” post? As soon as the appointment was announced, the jury was out.

Nearly four months following the change of guard and with harmonised elections on the horizon, popular sentiment is that the two have so far acquitted themselves very well.

During their time in office, the duo has morphed into a fearsome administrative tag team, brooking no nonsense in the execution of their mandate and earning themselves a moniker the “Iron Ladies”.

Having proven themselves for years as vibrant public administrators and shrewd legal sages throughout their careers, Justice Makarau and Mrs Kazembe have so far gone about their business with consummate ease and calmness.

The duo’s administration credentials and rising profile were further enhanced in the wake of a flawlessly managed constitutional referendum in March.

However, they still await what may well be the biggest test of their professional careers — the July 31 harmonised elections. But with less than a fortnight to go before the poll, the dynamic duo has barely shown any signs of buckling under pressure.

During their short stint at the apex, the dynamic duo has shown that they are indeed “woman enough” to handle the task. Justice Makarau attributes her robust demeanour to stakeholder support.

“It is a very demanding position; we are not underestimating it. The support and goodwill from all sectors — political parties; the media and civil society — has greatly helped,” says the chief election driver.

“What has also assisted is remaining focused on what is in the best interest of the country. In all situations I ask myself, ‘What is in the best interest of the country, and try to deliver.”

Information management is a critical aspect of election administration and under Justice Makarau and Mrs Kazembe, Zec has come out with flying colours.

At many a Press briefing, some journalists have oftentimes come for some firm albeit graceful chastising.

Under the leadership of the iron ladies, the commission has also garnered widespread praise for its professionalism. Being an impartial adjudicator is not new to Justice Makarau. After all, she is a former Judge President and also sat, briefly, on the Supreme Court bench.

At one point, she was a non-constituency Member of Parliament. She comes highly regarded and is often described as a woman of virtue who commands a great deal of respect and reverence right across society.

During her stint at Zec, she is widely revered for not showing any signs of bias towards any political side. She remains well commended for that trait.

Never the one afraid to speak her mind, as Judge President in 2009, Justice Makarau courted the ire of fellow legal practitioners after she fired a broadside at fellow judges and lawyers who dabbled in politics.

“It is my view that sadly, a few of us, judges and legal practitioners alike, have allowed the transient politics of the day to affect the relationship between profession and the bench,” she said speaking at the opening of the 2009 legal year.

“The time-honoured duty of all legal practitioners to seek the truth and to assist the court at all times, has, in some instances, and on account of politics, been thrown overboard.”

Mrs Kazembe, on the other hand, was caretaker boss at Zec when the then chairperson Justice Simpson Mutambanengwe was unavailable.
She managed to steer the Zec ship in the tempestuous waters that was the inclusive Government.

Mrs Kazembe is a renowned administrator who has held several high-profile posts in academia and civil society.

Having been thrown into the deep end, the two women have displayed momentous rigidity which most people, including their male counterparts, can only dream of, putting to rest the dogmatic mantra — “it’s a man’s world”.

Never afraid to crack the whip when necessary, Zimbabweans can rest assured the forthcoming elections are in good hands. But the jury remains out as the general elections approach.

Fact Box
Justice Rita Makarau

* Born December 7, 1960
* 1982 Graduated with a Bachelor of Laws Degree from UZ
* 1983 Graduated with an Honours Degree in Law from UZ
* 1983-1984 Public Prosecutor at the Magistrates’ Courts
* 1984-1988 Private practice
* 1988-1989 Secretary for Legal Affairs at Parastatals Commission
* 1990-2000 Private Practice
* 1995-2000 Part-time UZ lecturer
* 1997-Non-Constituency MP
* 1998-1999 Commissioner at Constitutional Commission
* December 2000-Appointed High Court Judge
* 2006-Judge President
* 2010-Appointed to Supreme Court bench
* February 2013-Appointed Zec chairperson

Fact Box

Mrs Joyce Kazembe

* 1983-Attained UZ Bachelor of Administration (Honours) Degree

* June 1990-Joined the Sapes Trust — served for 18 years in senior managerial capacities and as Trustee
* 1999-2000 Commissioner and Administrator, Constitutional Commission
* 2001-2002 Governor — Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation
* 1988-2007 Councillor — Catholic University in Zimbabwe
* 1995-2001 Vice-President (Southern Africa) — African Association of Political Science
* 2005-2010 Mambo Press Board of Directors
* 2001-2005 Commissioner at Electoral Supervisory Commission of Zimbabwe

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