Zimbabwe: Tendai Biti cuts Mugabe’s election budget request

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Crucial elections in troubled Zimbabwe are now closer to reality after
Finance minister Tendai Biti on Thursday, November 25 set aside under
Treasury an “unallocated contingency fund”. This falls short of the hundreds of millions in electoral budget allocation requested by President Mugabe. Government officials argue that the elections should cost less.

A US$50 million “unallocated contingency fund” set aside by Tendai Biti would cater for fresh elections whenever they are held. The Finance minister however failed to make the announcement during his national budget presentation in parliament.

Biti also made clear indications that elections were looming after he set aside US$30 million for the constitutional referendum and US$20 million for other electoral matters. President Mugabe three months ago ordered Biti, who is also MDC secretary general, to allocate $200 million for elections.

Mugabe has reiterated that the country will go for elections before June next year to undo the ill conceived power sharing agreement signed with the two MDC factions in September 2008.

Tsvangirai, on the other hand, is cautiously saying he wants elections but under conditions free of political violence and intimidation. Zimbabwe’s elections have often been characterised by brutality and coercion.

Political and economic commentators have long warned that a rushed election could derail economic recovery and that if held without first implementing political reforms, including a new constitution that guarantees basic rights, it would favour Mugabe.

Unallocated reserve fund

Senior government sources said that while Biti did not specifically budget for elections and make it public, there was an unallocated US$50 million reserve fund under the Finance ministry which could be used to bankroll elections likely to be held by June next year.

“If the referendum costs US$30 million, then it is likely that the elections would also cost around US$30 million,” a senior government official told Afrik-News.com.

“However, the referendum and other election-related issues would altogether cost US$50 million. As a result of this there are some unallocated reserves of at least US$50 million which have been set aside and that’s your contingency fund for elections” she added.

While there were indications that elections could be coming, questions were being raised as to why the issue of the funding of elections was not dealt with forthrightly.

Zuma visits

Meanwhile, South African President Jacob Zuma was expected in Harare on Friday, November 26 for talks with political leaders in a desperate bid to coax them to put behind their squabbles.

Zuma wants the leaders to craft a pact that will lead to free and fair elections expected next year.

His international relations advisor Lindiwe Zule says Zuma would also push the Harare coalition partners to complete implementation of their power sharing agreement, a key requirement to ensuring democratic polls in Zimbabwe.

“I can confirm that he is coming on Friday. On his agenda will be a discussion on the implementation of the global political agreement (GPA) issues agreed at the previous SADC meeting and any troubling issues that might have arisen in between the implementation,”

“The other issue that he will talk about to the principals would be the issue concerning the development of a roadmap on elections” she said.

Zuma is the Southern African Development Community (SADC)’s official
mediator in the Zimbabwe inter-party political dialogue.

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