Zim appoints new rights, election chiefs

Harare - Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Monday announced new heads for the country's human rights and electoral commissions ahead of crucial polls this year.

Tsvangirai told journalists a former governor from President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party was the new chairperson of the human rights commission following the resignation of top lawyer Reg Austin in January.

Austin cited lack of facilities including an office for the commission among reasons for his resignation.

"Jacob Mudenda will chair the human rights commission," Tsvangirai said. "We have considered his past. We believe he is capable, being a lawyer and a member of the commission."

Zimbabwe is expected to hold a constitutional referendum on March 16 and elections in July, which will end the shaky coalition, but no dates have been set.

Elections in Zimbabwe have been marred by human rights violations including killings of political opponents, beatings and intimidation.

Tsvangirai said a high court judge would replace former judge Simpson Mutambanengwe who retired last week as the electoral commission chief on health grounds.

"There were a couple of names but we arrived at somebody on the bench," Tsvangirai said. "I am not at liberty to reveal the name at this stage because the individual has not been informed."

Tsvangirai confirmed Mutambanengwe's resignation was voluntary, adding that the former commission chief had undergone an operation and needed close medical monitoring.

Ahead of the votes the two main political parties - Mugabe's Zanu-PF and Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change - have said they support the adoption of the draft charter.

But the MDC has said it would want more reforms in the media, security and electoral sectors for the southern African country to hold free and fair elections.

Tsvangirai said $100m was needed for the referendum and that the money would be raised in the country through taxes and loans from local companies.

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