HARARE – Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chairperson Rita Makarau has said she kneeled and curtseyed for President Robert Mugabe as a sign of humility and respect.
This comes after a picture of Makarau — a Supreme Court judge – kneeling before Mugabe at State House during the launch of biometric voter registration went viral on social media.
The opposition has also expressed outrage, saying Makarau was showing that she was subservient to one of presidential candidates in crucial elections scheduled for next year.
Makarau, who is also the secretary for the Judicial Services Commission, told Ruvheneko Parirenyatwa in an interview that culture demands that she respects her elders and saw nothing untoward about her actions.
“I have been brought up to say that when you are speaking to someone older than you, you kneel down. That’s how I have been brought up and it was difficult for me to change just like that when he called me to his side,” Makarau said, adding that she also finds herself kneeling when conducting her duties as a Supreme Court judge.
“I find myself kneeling to the Chief Justice (Luke Malaba) if I have to speak to him. I can’t get rid of that upbringing, like I said.
“Even at work, I find myself kneeling. Maybe I need to go for training.”
Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC said it respects Makarau as a woman and as a judge.
“We know that she grew up in Goromonzi District where culture dictates that women should kneel when greeting or talking to male elders,” MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said.
“But then for a whole judge to kneel before Mugabe at an occasion that was supposed to be Stately and official, is perhaps taking African culture way too far.
“In that science of communication, Makarau was sending out a message that she is subservient and loyal to Mugabe. But then, Mugabe is also a politician who is going to be a presidential candidate in next year’s elections, or so we are made to believe.
“As such, Makarau shouldn’t have knelt before Mugabe because he is a political contestant amongst other contestants. Would Makarau kneel before Morgan Tsvangirai or Nkosana Moyo the same way she knelt before Mugabe? Most probably not.
“With due respect, we suggest that Makarau should read some books on smart strategies to help her communicate more effectively. She should read a book called 27 Powers of Persuasion written by Chris St.Hilare; the message strategist who handled Arnold Schwarzenegger’s historic victory as governor of California some years back.”
But Makarau said she was “very detached (from politicians) and when I was speaking to him (Mugabe) I was speaking to him in his capacity as the head of state.”
“I think what people forget is that in 2013, I also spoke to the then prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai, no questions were raised about that. I speak to any office bearer in my capacity as commissioner of Zec,” she said.