'Poll funding must be unconditional'

HARARE - Zimbabwe has told Denmark to keep its money rather than to expect the southern African country to compromise on its independence and sovereignty.

Zimbabwe Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi told visiting Denmark State secretary for Development Policy Ib Petersen that any electoral funding must be unconditional.

“Even though we appreciate funding for our upcoming elections, the funding must not compromise on our independence and sovereignty,” Mumbengegwi said.

“Aid must not be conditional; if it is conditional then we will not accept it. We are not compromising, if the funding is conditional, keep your money.”

With the country cash-strapped and relying on donors to fund critical sectors such as health, Zimbabwe has been looking to organisations such as the United Nations (UN) to help bankroll a looming plebiscite — but yesterday Mumbengegwi made it clear that external funding will only come in line with the country’s demands.

“We are an independent country, we welcome help but if it means compromising our independence, then we will not accept the money,” he said.

Yesterday Petersen pledged $40 million yearly in aid to Zimbabwe saying the money will be channelled toward economic revival.

“We are closely working with the African Development Bank, $40 million will be disbursed yearly and it shall be released on a performance-based condition,” he said.

Denmark is one of the major donors in Zimbabwe with a long history going all the way back to the Nordic countries’ solidarity during the struggle for independence in the 1970s.

After a period of a freeze in relations between the two countries, Denmark is now seeking to improve diplomatic ties with Zimbabwe — a follow up to the European Union’s move to relax targeted sanctions on senior Zanu PF officials.

Petersen, who also met Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday, is conducting high-level meetings with senior government officials that would help his government understand the needs of Zimbabwe.

The timing of the visit, shortly after a successful referendum and prior to elections, will set the framework for bilateral discussions.

Denmark will also, on a pilot basis, launch direct support to the Judicial Service Commission in their rehabilitation of magistrate’s courts. - Ndakaziva Majaka

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