Tsvangirai, Mugabe in cash scramble

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai are desperately in need of over $20 million to kick-start a voter registration blitz ahead of a referendum and watershed election.

With the constitution-making process stalled because of disagreements between Mugabe and Tsvangirai’s parties, the fragile unity government is agreed that there is need to adequately fund the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) for the body to carry out a thorough job.

Zec is a constitutional body mandated with conducting elections and related matters such as voter registration.

Tsvangirai yesterday met with Patrick Chinamasa, minister of Justice and Legal Affairs and officials from Zec where all parties agreed that principals should dig for cash to bankroll the election programme.

“The meeting was about making preparations for a referendum and an election and how we can locally raise resources to fund the referendum and the election,” Chinamasa said.

“We have agreed that we should commence a voter registration blitz from the 3rd of January. We have also agreed that attempts should be made to immediately raise $21 million towards funding the initial steps or processes towards the referendum.

“Some of the resources will have to be raised later but immediately Zec wants $21 million which will be necessary to undertake the initial steps towards a referendum,” Chinamasa said.

Before the meeting, Zec was demanding that Treasury sets aside a combined $220 million for the harmonised elections and the referendum, but yesterday Joice Kazembe, the commission’s acting chairperson revised the figure downwards to $192 million.

“This was an urgent meeting towards preparation for the forthcoming referendum and elections with respect to mobilising resources and the urgent requirements of the commission,” said Kazembe.

Kazembe was optimistic that Zec, despite having been allocated a meagre $50 million in the 2013 national budget, would get additional funding to enable the country to vote for a new constitution then go for fresh elections.

“We require $85 million for the referendum and $107 million for the elections,” she said. “The figure has gone down because there are activities we thought would happen which are no longer going to take place.”
While in past elections, constituency delimitation used to chew the election fund, the often controversial exercise for the forthcoming polls has been skipped.

Apart from delimitation of constituencies, in the impending referendum, citizens of the country will not be required to register with Zec in order to vote but will use their national identity cards.

That has cut costs.

Other urgent requirements for Zec include purchasing indelible ink that would be used in the voting process.

Obert Gutu, deputy minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, who also attended the meeting, said the indelible ink would cost at least $900 000 and then take up to eight weeks for the manufacturer to deliver.

Gutu said Zimbabwe is not as broke as what many people believe and during Monday’s principals meeting, funding for polls will be discussed.

“The premier has assured us that on Monday at the meeting of the principals they are going to make sure the money is available.

The good news is that the money is going to be available. The money is going to come from government,” said Gutu.

Despite the spirited efforts to mobilise funding for elections and a referendum, there are no fixed dates yet in regard to when the two plebiscites would take place.

Progress in the constitution-making process is currently stalled due to new demands by Zanu PF to rewrite the draft.

A new constitution is regarded by Sadc guarantors of the coalition government as a stepping stone towards holding free and fair elections, but stakeholders say Zanu PF is delaying the process after demanding amendments to the Parliament-authored draft.

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