ZEC defends Tsvangirai

HARARE - Zimbabwe’s electoral body has defended its contact with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai saying allegations that he is meddling with the electoral process are dishonest.

Joyce Kazembe, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) deputy commission chairperson, said this after meeting Tsvangirai to discuss modalities for this year’s referendum and general election.

Zec is a constitutional body set up after the formation of the coalition government in 2009.

It is mandated with running a smooth and credible election following the sham 2008 polls and Tsvangirai has been working closely with the body to ensure it gets off the ground.

Home Affairs and acting Finance minister Theresa Makone, Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa and Registrar General (RG) Tobaiwa Mudede attended yesterday’s meeting.

“The Prime Minister is merely facilitating. He is not meddling,” Kazembe said.

Reports in the public media have quoted “analysts” saying Tsvangirai is now interfering with Zec processes in the wake of a series of meetings the PM has held with the electoral body and related ministries. Others claimed Tsvangirai was using the meetings to facilitate rigging.

Tsvangirai’s spokesperson William Bango told the Daily News that his boss is a political facilitator.

“The Prime Minister, as an interested political player, will recuse himself from Zec processes as soon as it is rolled out,” said Bango.

“It is mischief of the highest order for anybody to suggest that he is interfering with a process that we all know he is working hard to push through. In as much as Zec would want to be independent of political intrusion, it still needs resources from the state; that is where the PM comes in,” Bango said.

Kazembe said delays by government in releasing funds for the commencement of voter registration and education exercises are stalling the commission’s work.

“Of course we are frustrated. We want to be out there in the field, that is our work and if we had our way the process of voter education and registration would have begun on 3 January,” said Kazembe.

“We are hopeful though that the money will be released soon. However, soon is a relative term, it could mean anything,” Kazembe said.

Makone said she would be meeting with technocrats at the Finance ministry to make sure the $13 million required to kick-start the programme is released “quickly”.

“The Prime Minister has assured me that he has been assured by minister Biti that the funds are there. I will today meet with staff at the ministry to make sure it is authorised and released to Zec,” said Makone.

“It is a fact the money is there, so we will find out what is causing the delays,” Makone said.

Biti last week promised to give Zec $1 million that he said was required to begin voter registration and education. Zec has since submitted a $22 million budget from which the RG’s office will get $13 million.

The remainder will be used by the commission.

Government has also blamed Zec for delaying the submission of its budget proposals.

Kazembe said government had approved the budget presented by the commission.

Bango said the Tsvangirai’s office had only received the proposals from Zec after the Christmas holidays.

“We only received the budget on the 2nd of January but everything has now been finalised. As soon as the money has been released, it will be up to Zec to begin its work.

“I must also say that the Registrar General (RG) is the custodian of all our records hence his presence here and during the exercise that Zec will undertake. However, the buck stops at Zec’s door. The commission is now fully functional and now in charge. It is legally mandated with monitoring all the electorally aligned work by the RG’s office,” said Bango.

Zimbabwe is gearing for a watershed election that has stalled because of constant bickering over a new constitution.

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