The European Union (EU) has announced plans to suspend the US$5 million funding extended to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) in November last year as the electoral management body becomes the first casualty of last month’s disputed elections.

The EU last year handed over €6 million (US$5,9 million) to Zec to help in preparations for the general elections held last month.

The funding package was announced at a signing ceremony for the EU’s €47 million package to support activities of the Health and Child Care ministry and Zec.

However, the EU, in a statement yesterday announced that it has formally communicated its intention to suspend the financial support to Zec to both the Finance and Investment Promotion ministry and the electoral management body.

“The project supporting Zec, which is managed by UNDP and scheduled to run until December 2024, is currently under scrutiny due to concerns raised by several international electoral observation missions (EOMs) regarding the independence and transparency of Zec during the 2023 harmonised elections.

“The recent preliminary statements from multiple EOMs, including the EU EOM, have raised concerns about Zec's management of the electoral process, particularly regarding its independence and transparency.

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“The EU contributes together with other donors to a UNDP-managed project aiming at enhancing Zec’s institutional and technical capabilities to fulfil its constitutional mandate.”

The organisation said in response to these concerns and in adherence to responsible management of EU development co-operation funds it had initiated a process to suspend its contribution to the project.

“The EU firmly underscores the critical importance of electoral management bodies serving as independent and transparent institutions in fulfilling their mandates to deliver credible and inclusive electoral processes that enjoy the trust of citizens.

“The EU remains open to the possibility of resuming its contribution to support efforts aiming at strengthening the electoral processes andbringing such processes closer to the regional and international standards that Zimbabwe has signed.

“The European Union will continue closely monitoring developments in Zimbabwe and reaffirms its commitment to collaborate with the government, independent commissions, civil society, and other stakeholders in promoting democracy, human rights and rule of law.”

The primary goal of the ZIM ECO2 project was to enhance Zec's capacity to conduct the electoral process, with the aim of contributing to the improvement of the entire electoral cycle.

The project is managed by UNDP and receives support from various donor agencies, including the EU.

Following the signing of the Financing Agreement with the Ministry of Finance in November 2022, the EU officially entered into the ZIM-ECO2 project with UNDP in December 2022, providing a total contribution of US$4,7 million, of which approximately €1 million has been spent.