Mugabe in poll fix

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Finance minister Tendai Biti yesterday said the cash-strapped inclusive government had not budgeted for elections this year as it is struggling to fund a population census and a referendum on the new constitution.

The latest revelations may put paid to President Robert Mugabe’s insistence that the polls would be held before the end of the year to end the four-year marriage of convenience with his MDC rivals.

Biti said government, which had missed its revenue targets for the first two months of 2012, only had money for the August census and the referendum expected in the second half of the year.

“A sum of US$37,2 million is required to carry out the 2012 population census,” he said in his monthly state of the economy address.

“A provision of US$22 million was made in the 2012 National Budget for the exercise.

“The balance of US$15,2 million will have to be sourced, also targeting development partners.”

The minister did not specify the amount of money set aside for the referendum on the new charter, which South Africa has insisted must be a precondition for any new elections in Zimbabwe.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC-T has also maintained that it would not participate in elections before a new constitution is put in place.

“We have money for a referendum which by itself is an election,” Biti said.

“We have an election in the form of a census and we cannot afford a third election and we have not budgeted for that.”

He said government revenue had fallen short of expectations because income from diamonds was not forthcoming. The MDC-T secretary-general warned government operations could be paralysed by the cash crunch. “Diamonds will have to deliver, otherwise the only thing we have to do will be to pay wages and government will have to close,” Biti said.

“We cannot have a situation where 70% of revenue is going towards wage demands.

“That’s not an acceptable position. Wages are crowding out other government expenditures.” According to Biti, government revenue collections for January and February were $488,24 million against a target of $549,5 million.

“This implied a cumulative deficit of $61,24 million, largely emanating from underperfomance of diamond revenues (US$58 million),” he said.

However, he said he had received assurances from Mines and Mining Development minister Obert Mpofu that diamond revenues would start trickling in soon.

He bemoaned the fact that some State institutions such as the Zimbabwe Republic Police were not remitting revenues they collected to Treasury.

“From police, money is not coming to us,” he said. “We have no problem in a situation where the money comes to us and we discuss challenges. “The laws must be respected.”