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SUPREME Court Judge, Justice Rita Makarau has been named the new Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) chairperson as the country prepares for a constitutional referendum and general elections later in the year.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa told state radio Tuesday that Makarau would be acting head of the ZEC until December.

Chinamasa said the appointment would be confirmed once President Robert Mugabe has consulted the Judicial Services Commission, which Makarau also heads, and the Parliamentary Committee on Standing Rules and Orders.

"The appointment will give Justice Makarau the responsibility to oversee the conducting of a voter registration blitz if it is carried out, the referendum expected next month as well as the harmonised elections at a later date,” Chinamasa said.

“We have asked her to be the acting chair up to that time so that she produces an election report and I think that she, together with the commission, would have done that by December,” he said.

The appointment was agreed at meeting Monday between Mugabe and MDC leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara.

Makarau replaces retired judge Simpson Mutambanengwe who quit last week citing health reasons.

Tsvangirai dismissed media reports claiming that Mutambanengwe, who had led the ZEC since March 2010, was forced out.

“Let me correct an impression on Justice Mutambanengwe resignation, he was not forced out but opted out voluntarily on health reasons,” the premier told reporters in Harare.

The electoral commission was established as part of a raft of reforms, including a new constitution, expected to lead to fresh polls for a substantive government this year.

The draft new constitution is to be put to a national referendum on March 16 although the government admits it is still scrambling to raise money for the exercise and has also appealed for donor help with finances for the elections.

Tsvangirai and Mutambara said Monday that the government would be approaching local companies to help fund the referendum.

"The finances required for the referendum and the parallel voter registration and inspection is US$100 million. We believe we can raise that internally,” Tsvangirai said.

“We have also requested the UNDP to help fund the election. Whatever is raised by the UNDP will go towards the national elections."


Mutambara added: "We are saying to the private sector: 'This is your country, political stability is in your best interest.'"

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