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Mon Aug 31 04:32:00 SAST 2015

Zimbabwe gets new elections chief

Sapa-dpa | 20 February, 2013 11:32
A polling officer fixes a sign indicating a polling station in Bulawayo Zimbabwe. File photo
Image by: Emmanuel Chitate / Reuters / Reuters

Rita Makarau, a Zimbabwean Supreme Court judge, will serve as the country's new elections chief through upcoming elections, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said on Wednesday.

The appointment is crucial ahead of a planned referendum on a new constitution slated for March and general elections likely to take place later this year.

The previous head of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, Simpson Mutambanengwe, stepped down for health reasons.

"She (Makarau) will preside over these two important events in Zimbabwe's electoral calendar," Chinamasa told dpa. "After December, she can revert to her (old) job."

He said the choice is hers and that she could also opt to stay on in the elections position.

The move comes just a few days after the southern African nation replaced the head of its human rights commission.

On Monday, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai announced that Jacob Mudenda would take over for Reg Austin as the head of the rights body. Austin, a respected professor, quit in December citing frustrating working conditions.

Mudenda is considered a supporter of President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party.

Zanu-PF and Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change have been in a strained coalition government since 2009, following violent elections the previous year.

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