SW Radio Africa (London)

22 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Govt Fails to Secure External Funding for Referendum

Photo: IRIN
Hope in Harare.

With less than a month before Zimbabwe holds a constitutional referendum, funding continues to be a thorny issue, with Finance Minister Tendai Biti announcing Friday that Zimbabwe had failed to secure funding for the referendum expected on March 16th.

Biti revealed that the Zimbabwean government is likely to fund the referendum on its own, despite facing financial challenges. Biti made the remarks soon after meeting the Chinese Minister of Commerce, Chen Deming at his offices in the capital.

He told journalists: "We are also pursuing the UN, and in fact they are sending a team at the beginning of March but unfortunately because the date of the referendum is so close they have already written to indicate that whatever they are going to do will only be for the election and not for the referendum. So we are on our own for the referendum."

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe further cemented bilateral relations with China after signing four agreements with Commerce Minister Chen Deming.

Zimbabwe signed the interest free loan of about 10 million dollars to purchase road and agricultural equipment, food and an outside broadcasting van for the ZBC.

China is a close ally of the ZANU PF party and the visit had raised high hopes that Mugabe's allies would offer a rescue package for the polls.

It's reported that Zimbabwe is scouting for over US$200 million for both the referendum and general elections this year.

With the government coffers in the red, Biti had appealed for funding from Mugabe's allies and neighboring countries, though with little success.

The presence of the Chinese Minister of Commerce in Zimbabwe, just weeks before the referendum, had raised hopes that aid would finally trickle in. However, speaking through an interpreter, the visiting Minister said elections in Zimbabwe are a domestic affair.

Critics have questioned why Zimbabwe, with vast resources such as diamonds in Marange, is in the red and battling to find money.

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