Farayi Machamire 7 March 2018
HARARE – The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has appointed Utoile
Silaigwana as the acting chief elections officer while the hunt for a
substantive office holder gets underway.
This comes after Zec cut ties with its chief elections officer, Constance
Chigwamba, after she fell out of favour with commissioners at the
electoral management body.
Zec commissioner Netsai Mushonga – who had taken to Twitter to make the
announcement – confirmed the development.
“Silagwana comes with a lot of experience as the former deputy chief
elections officer in charge of operations,” Mushonga told the Daily News.
Silaigwana was first appointed to the electoral commission when it was
still called the Election Supervisory Commission (ESC) led by the chief
executive officer of the-then ESC, Douglas Nyikayaramba.
Silaigwana was a major with the Army Education Corps and a serving soldier
when he was first appointed to Zec.
Silaigwana was the deputy chief elections officer in the 2008 elections
when Zec was accused of tinkering with election results to fit the matrix
of a run-off election after the now late opposition leader Morgan
Tsvangirai had failed to beat then president Robert Mugabe by enough votes
to avoid a second round.
Observer groups said a one-month delay in announcing results of the March
29, 2008 polls undermined the impartiality of the Zec.
Silaigwana then attributed the delays to lengthy “initial consultations”
and to polling agents arriving late.
The axed Chigwamba was handed a letter terminating her employment with the
commission after the Zec board’s meeting a fortnight ago, advising her
that she was being sent back to the Public Service Commission (PSC) with
effect from March 1.
A former permanent secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet,
Chigwamba was seconded to the post of Zec chief elections officer in June
2015 by Mugabe.
Zec chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba told the Daily News that the
decision to have Chigwamba recalled was arrived at by the commissioners
who unanimously felt that having a chief elections officer on secondment
from the PSC undermined the organisation’s independence.
Chigwamba, who could not be reached for comment, had since her appointment
in 2015 continued to earn her pensionable remuneration such as salary,
housing and representation allowance from the PSC while also drawing
allowances from Zec.
Chigwamba’s ouster came less than two months after Rita Makarau resigned
from the commission under unclear circumstances.
While the reasons behind Makarau’s exit from Zec are not known,
speculation has it that her resignation was part of the domino effects
arising from Mugabe’s ouster.