The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Hunt for Poll Funds Begins

Photo: Cliff Owen/IMF
Tendai Biti, Zimbabwe's finance minister.

PRINCIPALS in the inclusive Government have tasked Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa and his Finance counterpart Tendai Biti to source money for the referendum and general elections from donors.

This comes as political parties in Government have agreed to campaign for a "yes" vote for the new Constitution in the referendum expected in March.

The funds would come through Treasury for onward transmission to institutions that run electoral processes.

Minister Chinamasa said yesterday that he would meet Minister Biti today to work on modalities to source the funds.

"Yes, we are going to do that and I have put up suggestions to Minister Biti which we are going to discuss tomorrow (today).

"I have proposed that perhaps we can come up with a model that we will use to have the funds just like what we did during the Constitution-making process."

Minister Chinamasa said any model Government would take should not influence the electoral process.

"We have to have mechanisms that protect and sanitise our process from donor influence. It is a principle that no co-operating partner, through charity, should influence our processes," he said.

"Essentially, as Zanu-PF, we have no objection if that money comes through Treasury. We will object any assistance that is poured directly to institutions that directly run the electoral process."

About US$85 million is needed for the referendum, while elections require US$107 million.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission had budgeted US$220 million for the two events, but the amount has been reviewed to US$192 million.

The reduction in the budget followed the scrapping of the delimitation exercise that was going to consume some of the funds.

Minister Biti, who is also the MDC-T secretary-general, confirmed that they were charged with extending the begging bowl to donors.

He said Government coffers were empty and last month they struggled to pay civil servants.

"The President and the Prime Minister wrote to me and Minister Chinamasa instructing us to source money to fund elections from the international community," said Minister Biti.

"We will be approaching the international community on the basis of that letter."

Minister Biti said apart from donors, Government should play its part in funding the elections.

But he said ZEC's budget for the referendum was too huge.

"We disbursed US$2 million to the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs for onward transmission to ZEC," he said.

"We were advised it will be used for voter education. However, we feel there is a need for moderation in those budgets because how does one justify huge budgets that are way over what we spent during the population census."

But a ZEC official who requested anonymity said the budget was realistic.

"Population census doesn't have polling stations. How can the referendum be compared with population census when we will have about 11 staffers at each polling station compared to just an individual going around homes asking how many people are there?" said the source.

ZEC deputy chief elections officer responsible for Finance and Administration Mr Notai Mutemasango confirmed they received US$2 million for ink to be used at the referendum.

The negotiators in the inclusive Government yesterday met the Sadc facilitation team and briefed them on the progress made in the constitution-making process.

Speaking after meeting the facilitators, Minister Chinamasa said the parties would urge their supporters to vote for the new constitution.

"Negotiators met the Sadc facilitation team and it was a joint meeting," he said.

"We updated the team on progress made so far in terms of the new supreme law and the respective political parties communicated that they are going to campaign for a Yes Vote."

Minister Chinamasa said the parties told the team that the election roadmap would be clearer after the determination of the dates for the referendum.

"We told them that the major problem we are facing is that of resources," he said.

The Sadc facilitation team's visit yesterday follows the breakthrough in the constitution-making process by the principals to the GPA about a fortnight ago.

MDC negotiator Mrs Priscilla Misihairabwi Mushonga said: "We had a joint meeting and briefed the Sadc facilitation team on how far we had gone with the constitution making process.

"I can also confirm that the parties told the team that they will be campaigning for a yes vote when referendum time comes."

Zimbabwe is set to hold harmonised elections this year, with the referendum being the first major step towards that goal.

The elections would end the troubled inclusive Government that came into effect in 2009 after disputes surrounding the presidential elections held in 2008.

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