HARARE – The appointment of Justice Priscilla Chigumba as head of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has been met with mixed feelings.
Pessimists are frightened by her appointment.
They are arguing that none of her predecessors was independent from the appointing authority, thus the new Zec chair is a chip off the old block incapable of delivering an uncontested electoral outcome.
It is also being argued that Chigumba is not fit for office on account of allegations that she tried to solicit for a $20 000 bribe in order to throw out a civil case that was before her in 2013.
This is not helpful.
Zimbabweans will be going to the polls soon and it was going to be inappropriate for Zec to handle such a mammoth task without a substantive head.
Chigumba was found suitable for the job and, gleaning from her Curriculum Vitae, she has what it takes to do the job.
She has been a judge of the High Court for six years and, before that, she held the role of senior professional research assistant in the office of the Chief Justice after serving as a magistrate since 2004 when she joined the judiciary.
She did her law degree at King’s College London and her secondary school at Goromonzi and St Ignatius schools. While allegations of bribery were made against her during an interview, there is nothing to suggest that she was brought before trial or any hearing, possibly due to lack of evidence.
The doctrine of “innocent until proven guilty” puts the burden of proof on those who have issues against her without which it would be unfair to smear her name when there is no adverse verdict passed against her.
Judging by her performance on the bench, she is also a sound legal mind and a courageous one as well. Her dismissal of the State’s case against cleric Evan Mawarire in 2017 immediately comes to mind. In 2016, she also declared a government order against demonstrations illegal.
Chigumba arrives at Zec when expectations are high. Last November, Zimbabweans stood together to show their revulsion against former president Robert Mugabe’s autocratic rule. In this new era, elections that are free from elements that can deny Zimbabwe a chance to move forward as a democratic State are a prerequisite.
Chigumba is well aware of these issues and she has pledged to rise up to the challenge.
Instead of undermining her, why not give her the opportunity to prove her worth?
After all, don’t we all deserve a chance?