22 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Polls: Govt to Raise U.S.s$200 Million

ZIMBABWE will be able to raise US$200 million needed for the constitutional referendum and harmonised elections using its natural resources, President Mugabe has said. Briefing visiting bishops of the Inter-Regional Meeting of Catholic Bishops of Southern Africa on the political situation in the country on Wednesday at State House, the Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces said Finance Minister Tendai Biti wanted the referendum delayed because of lack of funds, but principals to the Global Political Agreement thwarted the move.

Government has set March 16 as the date for the referendum.

"The Ministry of Finance had wanted the date moved to allow him to look for money," said President Mugabe.

"We said no. It is a referendum after all. We have natural resources. What is the problem?"

President Mugabe told the bishops from Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Sao Tome e Principe, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe that a committee was set to fundraise for the referendum and elections.

"We need about US$200 million for the referendum and elections which I really thought we could manage to raise," he said.

President Mugabe assured the bishops that no hitches were expected during elections scheduled for this year.

"One does not expect any hitches here," he said.

"Hitches come when we get to the election itself. Contests are contests. First they begin with contests in-house, within the parties. It is a do-or-die. Is it me or is it somebody else, and the fights start there, clashes start there, quarrels start there. All parties, it is exactly like that."

President Mugabe was referring to intra-party skirmishes that occur during primary elections.

He said the leadership was trying to arrest the skirmishes through educational campaigns.

"From the intra-contest, you go to the party-to-party contest," he said.

"Zanu-PF versus MDC-T, MDC-T versus MDC-M. This is where we are trying as much as possible to say no, elections come and go."

The President admitted that intra-party violence occurs, but the situation was not as ugly as in some Western African countries.

He said the leadership was unanimous that violence must end, but the problem was at the grassroots where some party supporters do not heed the call for peaceful campaigns.

"Yes, we thank you for your wishes and your prayers," he said.

"If you can preach the same from the pulpits, peace, peace, peace. We want to be peaceful within our region."

Archbishop Liborius Nashenda of Namibia read a statement on behalf of the bishops.

The bishops said they were happy to see the Zimbabwean people and the Government of national unity coming together in giving the country a new and home grown constitution.

"We acknowledge the progress made by the Government of national unity in creating a greater sense of optimism and hope among Zimbabweans and their efforts to stabilise the economy," Archbishop Nashenda said.

The bishops called for peaceful elections which they volunteered to be observers.

They said the illegal Western sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe were harmful and must be lifted.

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