Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe yesterday swore-in members of a Human Rights and an Electoral Commission, expected to steer reforms towards free and fair elections.
Mugabe formed a unity government last year with long-time foe Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai, now prime minister, but reforms, which Western donors say are critical for a fair vote, have been slow.
The MDC was formed in 1999 and has come closest to ending Mugabe’s grip on power, but the party says Mugabe’s ZANU-PF has rigged elections and used violence against its supporters.
An official list seen by Reuters showed the Electoral Commission would be headed by Simpson Mutambanengwe, a former Zimbabwean Supreme Court judge who was serving as acting Chief Justice in the Namibian Supreme Court.
Mugabe also swore-in members of the Human Rights Commission, the first body tasked with investigating cases of rights abuses.
Reg Austin, a law professor and former Commonwealth secretariat’s head of legal and constitutional affairs division, will chair the rights body.
The commissions were agreed by Tsvangirai and Mugabe.
Last month the government published names of members of a media commission. It said this month it would soon start licensing newspapers.
Analysts say the three commissions look politically balanced with technocrats and officials with ties to ZANU-PF and the MDC.
Mugabe and Tsvangirai remain deeply divided over appointments of provincial governors and Mugabe’s refusal to swear-in Tsvangirai’s ally Roy Bennett as deputy agriculture minister.
Mugabe has refused to sack two of his allies who he appointed central bank head and attorney general without consulting Tsvangirai.
The 86-year-old said last Friday his party would not concede ground to the MDC until Western sanctions against his inner circle and a general financial freeze on Zimbabwe were lifted.
Yesterday, ZANU-PF and MDC negotiators were holding a final round of talks on the power-sharing dispute but a breakthrough was not expected. State television said negotiators would compile a report to be discussed with South African mediators before presenting it to their political leaders.