11 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Tsvangirai Meets ZEC

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday met officials from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the Registrar-General's Office but failed to set up a new date for the commencement of mobile voter registration with no indication of when Treasury would release money for the exercise.

At least US$21 million is required to conduct the exercise that was expected to begin last Thursday but failed to take off due to lack of funds. Addressing journalists after the meeting at the Prime Minister's Charter House Office, ZEC acting chairperson Mrs Joyce Kazembe said her organisation was ready to start the registration any time if funds were made available.

"We are waiting for money and we are ready to roll, if the money comes we are ready to act.

"We have been told that the money is there but we don't know what is delaying its release," she said.

She said Treasury had also not disbursed the US$1 million meant for publicity ahead of the exercise.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti last week said Government would release the money for ZEC to kick-start its awareness campaigns.

"We have to go out with our teams to publicise the event a week before actual registration takes place. Surprisingly, the US$1 million earmarked for that has not been released to ZEC.

"We are frustrated because we want to go to the field but we understand that the economy is not performing well," Mrs Kazembe said.

Mrs Kazembe said the awareness campaign was meant to educate the public on what was required to register as a voter.

She said one was required to produce proof of residence to be registered as a voter since the country's voters' roll was ward-based.

The ZEC chairperson said the proof may include sworn affidavits, utility bills or confirmation letters from chiefs or headmen in rural areas. "We are not barring anyone from registering but the issue is one has to have an address where he or she resides since our voters' roll is ward-based," she said.

The country has 1 958 wards.

Acting Minister of Finance Mrs Theresa Makone said she had been assured that funds for the exercise were available.

"We have agreed that the process should start as soon as possible and I am going to meet the ministry officials to see what is available and when it could be authorised for release," she said.

Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa said ZEC and the Registrar-General's office had different duties and reporting structures in the registration of voters. He, however, said ZEC would play the supervisory role.

"We clarified to the Prime Minister that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission had its reporting structure from the headquarters to the district level," he said.

"The same applies to the RG's office. Staff under the RG's office is controlled and managed by the Registrar-General."

Minister Chinamasa said ZEC had no right to control the operations of the RG's office.

"They cannot direct the day to day work of the RG's office. It is only in its supervisory role that ZEC has the power to ask for reports on the work the RG's office could have done," he said. "These include requesting the number of people who could have registered between a certain period or who could have been turned away."

There have been counter accusations over the delays in the rolling out of the mobile voter registration exercise with Minister Chinamasa last week saying no funds had been released despite assurances by PM Tsvangirai last year that he would engage Treasury to expedite disbursement of the money.

However, the Prime Minister's office accused ZEC of delaying the exercise after it submitted its budget late.

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