HARARE – As Zimbabwe’s shaky government continues to scavenge for funds to run next year’s referendum and elections, the Daily News on Sunday can reveal that the country’s electoral commission is saddled with a near million-dollar debt.
In representations made to the power-sharing Global Political Agreement (GPA) Principals early this month, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) disclosed that it owed unnamed creditors over $700 000 for services rendered.
The debt, coupled with a government freeze on recruitment, has rendered the electoral commission almost impotent. Zec has since requested for a special dispensation to allow it to recruit staff for its offices countrywide.
Finance minister Tendai Biti budgeted a measly $50 million of the near $300 million required for the two processes. Added to this, Zec wants to embark on an important but expensive massive voter registration exercise following howls of disapproval for the current voters roll.
Contacted for comment last week, Joyce Kazembe, the acting Zec chairperson told the Daily News on Sunday.
“We do not understand the import of your questions to Zec at this point in time and will not supply any answers,” said Kazembe in an e-mailed response.
“You seem to have a source of information on issues discussed somewhere and we suggest whoever, gave you the lead should continue to feed your curiosity. Zec will not do so, now or in the near future,” Kazembe said.
Constitutional Affairs minister Eric Matinenga confirmed the electoral body owed different creditors money and government was working on helping Zec repay.
“I can confirm that the issues you are enquiring on were raised in meetings between the Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Zec officials. He (Tsvangirai) was very positive he would do all he can to assist and would be taking the issue with other Principals,” said Matinenga.
“As for the staff recruitment waiver it is a preserve of the minister of Finance and unfortunately during the meetings which I attended Biti was out of the country but my understanding is that there are consultations going on to help Zec,” Matinenga said.
“It is imperative that Zec is capacitated because failure to do so we should kiss any prospects of a proper election goodbye.”
The electoral commission also reportedly requested for funds to buy 131 cars needed by the authority to function properly.
According to Zec representations to the Principals, the commission is operating with less than half of the required staff of around 700.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily News early this month, Tsvangirai said the country will be approaching institutions such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for assistance.
Curiously, the UNDP, which has been funding the constitution-making exercise, has been under fire from Zanu PF hawks for allegedly pushing a regime change agenda by financing Zimbabwe’s key processes.