HARARE – A United Nations Assessment Team has been barred from flying into Zimbabwe to assess the country’s political environment and financial needs before a crunch poll whose dates are still hazy.
Informed sources told the Daily News yesterday that the UN team is stuck in Johannesburg, South Africa after the minister of Justice and Legal Affairs Patrick Chinamasa, unilaterally wrote to the team saying the country was not ready to receive them notwithstanding an earlier invitation.
The UN team was supposed to have arrived in Harare on Wednesday. Chinamasa was unreachable for comment as he was said to be locked in a meeting. But officials at the ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Finance ministry confirmed that the UN officials are trapped in South Africa.
“This is really embarrassing and could strain our relations with the UN. It is clear that we do not have resources to fund elections and now this,” said a source.
With Zimbabwe set to hold a landmark election, cash constraints forced the government of Zimbabwe into writing to the UN seeking financial assistance.
Chinamasa and Biti wrote to the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP) seeking $250 million for the purposes of administering the constitutional referendum and general election, scheduled for this year.
In its response on February 15, titled “UN Electoral Needs Assessment Mission (Nam) to Zimbabwe”, the global body resolved to set up a team led by a member of the UN Electoral Assistance Division Tadjoudine Ali Diabacte to come and assess the political situation here.
The UN failed to bankroll the referendum citing a late submission of the country’s request.
However, on elections the UNDP said it would need to physically assess the country before it pooled resources for elections which for now hang in the balance since the government is broke.
Sources say among other issues that especially irked Zanu PF was the request by the UN to meet various stakeholders during its assessment mission.
UNDP said the Nam team would work closely with the UN resident co-ordinator.
“In close co-ordination with the resident co-ordinator, the Nam will assess the following — political, legal, technical and security environment and electoral framework, including voter registration procedures/processes,” reads the UN response.
“Capacity and needs of election stakeholders and in particular the electoral management body or bodies, including budgetary requirements.”
Yesterday, Foreign minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi told a visiting Danish delegation that Zimbabwe would not allow aid with strings attached.
In a press statement released after a meeting with the Friends of Zimbabwe donor nations in London two weeks ago, Chinamasa said Zanu PF will not welcome a UN assessment team in the country, saying it does not want the UN to interfere in Zimbabwe’s politics.
Chinamasa said the country will welcome financial resources to buy cars, materials and equipment necessary to support the logistics needed for upcoming elections, but noted that Zimbabwe rejects any attempt to assess the nation’s political, legal, institutional, technical and electoral systems.
“This is just stupid. We wrote to the UN seeking assistance and now Zanu PF is blocking them,” said a government source.
Yesterday, Biti met Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai seeking the MDC leader to press his co-principal Mugabe to accept a UN team visit amid fears that Zimbabwe could yet again torch a diplomatic storm with key partners just before a watershed election that may result in some countries taking punitive measures.
The snubbing of a UN team is not a first in Zimbabwe. In 2009 the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak was denied entry into the country upon arrival at the Harare International Airport.
Although Nowak had been invited by Tsvangirai, the Foreign ministry deported him nonetheless causing tension.