The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Tsvangirai Under Fire

PRIME Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has come under fire for failing to honour his pledge to ensure Treasury releases US$21 million needed for voter registration. The PM reportedly made the pledge during two meetings he convened with Zimbabwe Electoral Commission officials in December last year.

Mobile voter registration that was scheduled to start on Thursday countrywide failed to kick off as it emerged that Treasury did not provide money to ZEC.

Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa yesterday said there was no money for ZEC to even conduct publicity programmes despite assurance from PM Tsvangirai to push for the release of the funds.

"We had two meetings with one of the principals, who is Prime Minister (Tsvangirai) and ZEC.

"We agreed that we had to conduct a blitz, beginning January 3, to mop up anybody who might not have been registered," he said.

"The PM assured us that he would engage Finance Minister Tendai Biti to make the funds available to ZEC, but up to now there is no single cent availed to the electoral body even for publicity purposes."

However, PM Tsvangirai's spokesperson Mr William Bango said it was not the Prime Minister's duty to look for money for national processes.

"The Prime Minister, as a member of the executive, does not conduct voter registration.

"What he was only doing in those meetings was to buttress a process where an independent electoral body could have the capacity to carry out its mandate."

Minister Chinamasa said the programme would, however, begin after Treasury releases the money.

"The programme cannot take off until there is money to carry out the exercise. Initially, we wanted US$32 million but for progress sake we pegged the exercise at US$21 million," he said.

"Everyone was banking on the authority of the Prime Minister, as one of the Principals, to make the Ministry of Finance release the funds but there is nothing up to date."

Minister Chinamasa said ZEC also needed money to meet conditions of service for the commissioners.

"We agreed that from yesterday (Thursday) all the commissioners should work full time rather than the part-time they were used to," he said.

"I am informed that they have started work full time but there is no money from Treasury to meet their conditions of service. ZEC does not even have vehicles for its staff to execute its duties."

Minister Biti swept to his boss' rescue on the eleventh-hour when he promised to release funds to the electoral commission.

He told StarFM News last night that he would give ZEC US$1 million to kick start the voter registration programme.

"We are sending them US$1 million very soon so that they can start. They should know that we were battling with bonuses for the end of last year and now that everyone has been paid bonuses we will give them US$1 million next week so that they can start."

Minister Chinamasa said no voter registration facilities would be extended to people in the Diaspora.

"Anyone who wants to register can travel and do so in Zimbabwe because no facilities will be extended to people outside the country.

"The same applies to voting facilities. There will be no extra-territorial facilities like ballot boxes for those in the Diaspora," he said.

Zimbabwe, Minister Chinamasa said, was the only country implementing the Sadc guidelines on elections set in 2003.

"Our experience is that towards elections, those people who fear defeat would want to find fault in the (electoral) system but we will not waste our time looking at such drawbacks."

ZEC needs US$107 million for elections and US$85 million for the referendum.

Meanwhile, Minister Chinamasa said he was surprised by the resignation of Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission chairperson Reginald Austin.

"It is not clear why he resigned. We co-operated with the commission on many issues that included the drafting of the Human Rights Bill," he said.

"I thought he was aware of the challenges that we have, some to do with resources to meet various issues which include the conditions of service for the commissioners.

"We need resources to set up a secretariat as provided for by the Bill and we had secured a building for them as well as resources for furnishing that building."

Prof Austin resigned last week under unclear circumstances after being sworn-in in 2010.

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