Chiweshe replaced Rita Makarau, who has since been moved to the Supreme Court bench. But the MDC wants Chiweshe removed from the bench, and replaced with a neutral and more experienced candidate, or to keep Makarau in the same position.
Informed sources confirmed that Tsvangirai, who is currently leading a business delegation to South Korea, would confront President Robert Mugabe over the issue when the principals of the inclusive government meet on May 28. Among other things, said the source, Tsvangirai was under pressure from his party to challenge the choice of Chiweshe, who has a tainted reputation after presiding over the inconclusive March 2008 elections which were fraught with irregularities. Tsvangirai has also challenged the constitutionality of the appointments, which he was not informed about.
“The Prime Minister only learnt of the appointments through the Herald newspaper on Friday. He was never consulted despite the fact that the GPA (global political agreement) clearly states that all senior government appointments by the President should be done after consultation with the Prime Minister,” said the source.
Although the principals are currently scheduled to meet on May 28, the source said the meeting could be brought forward because of the urgency of the matter.
“The judiciary is an arm of the government and it should not be controlled by one party. The appointments should be made through consultation, and the appointees should be people who are acceptable across the political divide. Certainly Chiweshe is not among the best of candidates because of his role in the 2008 elections,” added the source, a senior government official.
After the March 2008 elections, Chiweshe spent more than a month before announcing the presidential election results. He said he was because of the “meticulous verification and collation” of results, but civil society and opposition parties said he was trying to rig the election in favour of Mugabe, who had lost the election to Tsvangirai.
On Friday, the MDC condemned Chiweshe’s “unilateral and arrogant appointment”. A statement signed by the party’s secretary for legal affairs Innocent Gonese said Mugabe was rewarding Chiweshe for rigging the 2008 presidential election.
“The reputation of Chiweshe has been gravely undermined by his role in ZEC, which failed to administer a free and fair election by withholding results for six weeks,” read the statement.
“He (Chiweshe) actively colluded in electoral malpractices which cost no less than 500 lives and he proceeded to declare the election as free and fair. Zimbabwe today languishes under an ill-fitting and ill-working inclusive government which came about because of a failed election that Chiweshe presided over and therefore grossly undermined democracy. Chiweshe’s run at ZEC casts him more as a political player than a judicial official.”
Chiweshe’s appointment, added Gonese, would “only serve to cast further doubt on a judiciary which needs to work extremely hard in cleaning the thick cloud of the fog of suspicion that it is politically compromised”.
He added: “In order to ensure judicial independence, appointments to and within the judiciary must be done in a manner that assures the general public that political considerations are not the determinant. Chiweshe’s appointment departs from this principle and is an attack on independence of the judiciary, democracy and the rule of law in Zimbabwe.”
The MDC-T’s Jessie Majome recently told journalists that she was not happy with the manner in which she was sidelined in the appointments. Majome is the Deputy Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, but she says she was not informed of the appointments until at the last minute when she confronted her colleagues at the Ministry.