28 March 2013

Zimbabwe: Zim Keeps UNDP Waiting On Poll Funding

THE government, which has requested financial assistance from the international community to bankroll general elections likely to be held this year, is procrastinating a United Nations needs assessment mission to visit Zimbabwe to determine the country's requirements for the plebiscite.

Earlier last month, Finance Minister Tendai Biti and Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa wrote on behalf of government to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) resident representative requesting at least US$250 million for both the referendum and the general elections.

UNDP had responded by saying it would need to dispatch a fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe to access how much the country would need for the harmonised polls ZANU-PF wants held by June 29.

But The Financial Gazette can exclusively reveal that Harare is still to respond to a letter by the UN Focal Point of February 15, stating the regular terms of reference of the proposed needs assessment mission for consideration by the government.

"As of 15 March 2013, the United Nations awaits clearance from the Government of Zimbabwe on the dispatching of the needs assessment mission," a spokesperson of the UNDP disclosed in response to questions from The Financial Gazette this week.

According to the UNDP, a needs assessment mission constitutes the first step in responding to a request from a member state for electoral support submitted to the UN.

Once a needs assessment mission is conducted, its findings would be submitted to the UN Focal Point at its headquarters in New York in the United States.

Based on the findings, the Focal Point would determine the level of support the UN may provide and, as appropriate, recommend that UNDP prepare an electoral assistance project.

Biti and Chinamasa, the government's point-men regarding the country's request for funding, were not immediately available for comment at the time of going to print.

But fears are swirling the international community might not be able to mop up funds in time for the elections.

The cash-strapped government could again be forced to arm-twist struggling local firms to bankroll the polls as it did with fundraising for the constitution referendum held on March 16 when it forced the National Social Security Authority and Old Mutual to raise US$40 million.

Government might also be forced to channel proceeds from diamond sales to fund the forthcoming polls that would effectively bring closure to the acrimonious coalition government consummated in February 2009.

ZANU-PF has in the past expressed reservations over foreign funding for the local electoral process, arguing that it undermined the country's sovereignty and independence.

Its silence on the request to the UNDP might mean a change of heart.

Insiders within the party said ZANU-PF was not happy with some of the conditions outlined in the terms of reference for the assessment team and the conditions tied to UN poll funding.

Recently, the State media reported that government would request an amendment to the terms of reference but the UNDP indicated this week that no such request has been made.

"With reference to recent me-dia reports indicating that the government will request a change in the terms of reference transmitted on 15 February, the UN has not received any such request to date," said the UNDP.

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