Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa has appointed High Court Judge Priscilla Chigumba as the new chairperson of the national election agency, according to an appointment letter seen by Reuters on Wednesday.
The Zimbabwe Election Commission has not had a permanent chairperson since Rita Makarau resigned in December, months before a vote whose credibility is crucial to Mnangagwa’s efforts to re-engage the international community.
Makarau, seen as an ally of 93-year-old former president Robert Mugabe, gave no reason for her resignation at the time.
The Supreme Court judge was widely ridiculed this year after a picture of her kneeling before Robert Mugabe at State House during the launch of biometric voter registration went viral on social media.
Makarau, at the time of her resignation was overseeing an overhaul of the voter’s roll, which the opposition Movement for Democratic Change has described as ‘shambolic’.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who came to power via a de facto military coup that ended Mugabe’s 37-year rule, pledged to hold elections as scheduled next year.
Opposition parties have demanded reforms to an electoral system they say is skewed in the ruling ZANU-PF party’s favour.
In a survey done by Afrobarometer early this year, only one in four Zimbabweans say they trust the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC). The ZEC is appointed by the president and is often accused of incompetence and bias.