The Herald (Harare)

16 May 2013

Zimbabwe: Parly Castigates Biti Over Election Funds

Parliament yesterday castigated Finance Minister Tendai Biti for failing to provide enough funds for voter registration and for harmonised elections expected by June 29, while electoral officials said election dates should be announced only when the funds are available. Members of the House of Assembly from both sides unanimously denounced Minister Biti for his sluggish approach to important national events.

They blamed the chaos characterising voter registration on Minister Biti after teams for the exercise were trimmed because he failed to provide funding.

The legislators were speaking while making a contribution during a motion moved by Mbizo MP Mr Settlement Chikwinya (MDC-T) who called for the extension of the mobile voter registration.

Mr Chikwinya said Minister Biti should simply release the money.

"This exercise is a syllabus of any election and the Finance Minister must give money to ZEC and he should dictate the pace like what the UNDP was doing on Copac," he said.

Mwenezi East MP Cde Kudakwashe Bhasikiti (Zanu-PF) said the challenges related to mobile voter registration were a result of Minister Biti's attitude.

He said the Registrar-General's Office reduced the teams visiting various areas owing to depleted resources provided by Treasury.

"Minister Biti reduced the budget to US$4 million (for the mobile voter registration) to achieve a political end," said Cde Bhasikiti. "He is playing a political game, but as Zimbabweans we remain focused."

Kariba MP Cleopas Machacha (MDC-T) said many prospective voters were failing to register as a result of Minister Biti's failure to release money.

"The inclusive Government should release money so that everybody who is entitled to register can be given that opportunity," he said.

Masvingo Central MP Mr Jeffryson Chitando (MDC-T) said it was wrong for Minister Biti not to provide the money needed by ZEC.

The debate in Parliament came as ZEC chairperson Justice Rita Makarau said yesterday that the announcement of an election date should be accompanied by the requisite funding.

She was speaking while responding to a question during a meeting with church leaders at the ZEC offices in Harare.

ZEC requires US$126 million to conduct voter education, polling and announcement of results, but only US$500 000 has been released for voter education.

"We believe our machinery is ready for elections," said Justice Makarau.

"But it would be foolhardy for anyone to announce election dates without funding. We believe the announcement of the date will come with the envelope (funding)."

Justice Makarau said ZEC was ready to produce election results within the mandated five days from the close of polls.

"Yes, we have put enough mechanisms to announce results within five days of close of polls," she said, adding that logistics to enable ZEC to deliver were in place.

The meeting with the church leaders was meant to hear their views and share information ahead of the harmonised elections, with similar meetings having been held with journalists and political parties.

National co-ordinator of the Unions for the Development of Apostolic Sects of Africa Bishop Oliver Gwati said more effort should be put to register members of various apostolic sects.

He said some members of the sects who were eligible to register did not have birth certificates and identity cards.

Father Edward Ndete of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference said the country had progressive electoral laws.

Other church representatives said it was too late for ZEC to hold a meeting with them when the mobile voter registration ends on Sunday.

But Justice Makarau said voter registration would continue as usual at the Registrar-General of Voters Office even after the mobile exercise closes.

She said ZEC was battling to have the acceptance of an affidavit as proof of residence gazetted.

ZEC vice-chairperson Mrs Joyce Kazembe said church leaders should carry the message of peace to the people.

ZEC is considering a new mobile voter registration exercise after observing that the current one was slow and would not capture all those interested in voting.

The electoral body is expected to meet tomorrow to come up with modalities for the new exercise.

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