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Biti begs for poll funds

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Finance minister Tendai Biti yesterday said Zimbabwe will soon take a begging bowl to Western countries and world bodies for funds to bankroll the constitutional referendum and the forthcoming elections as the country had no money.

Report by Nqobile Bhebhe

Biti told a 2013 National Budget consultative meeting in Bulawayo that Treasury coffers could not fund the two processes which, according to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), require a staggering $104 million.

“The 2013 budget is the crucial one in the lifespan of the inclusive government because it’s a pre-election budget,” Biti said.

“However, we do not have adequate resources to fund the elections on our own. Countries such as the United Kingdom, Norway, and China and the United Nations have an obligation to fund the elections, in as much as they fund our education and health sectors. They should come to the party. We will soon approach them for assistance.”

However, Biti did not mention when a formal approach would be made or how much exactly he would be appealing for.

ZEC deputy chairperson Joyce Kazembe recently said the electoral body was ready to hold the referendum if funds were made available.
“Technically, we are ready and technically we boast that we are one of the best organised to hold any elections on the basis that the Commission is properly resourced, both financially and materially and human resource-wise to hold that,” she said.

Kazembe said ZEC would also require a six-week lead time before the referendumto ensure voter education, staff training and other logistical arrangements were put in place. The date for the referendum is yet to be set, but President Robert Mugabe has indicated that elections were scheduled for March next year.

His position has, however, courted sharp criticism from his partners in the inclusive government, MDC-T leader Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and MDC’s Welshman Ncube, who feel the Sadc-recommended reforms have to be implemented first before polls.

Zimbabwe has already approached South Africa for assistance in funding the National Budget as the country struggles to recover economically.

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