With only two months before the pending 20 by-elections in different constituencies, the broke Zanu(PF) government is yet to avail the required funding.The by-elections, to be held in June, were occasioned by the expulsion of Members of Parliament — two from Zanu(PF) and 14 from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Morgan Tsvangirai. This followed internal revolutions presently rocking the country’s two largest political parties.
Zanu(PF) is currently purging all members aligned to former vice president Joice Mujuru, including some lawmakers while the MDC-T successfully recalled 21 MPs last month who defected from Tsvangirai’s party last year.
Seven of the MPs owed their presence in Parliament to a proportional representation system brought about by the new Constitution, leaving 14 to be replaced through elections.
The MPs are, however, challenging the decision in court.
Last week, two expelled ZANU-PF MPs, Didymus Mutasa (Headlands) and Temba Mliswa (Hurungwe West) had their court challenge quashed by the Constitutional Court for lack of merit.
The other two by-elections were necessitated by the death of MPs Simon Musanhu (Wedza North) and Aquilina Katsande (Mudzi South).
Mudzi West constituency also became vacant following the co-option of Jonathan Samkange into ZANU-PF. He had contested the 2013 elections as an independent.
While the MDC-T is still to decide if it will participate in the coming by-elections, ZANU-PF is already seized with preparations for the polls where it would square off with smaller political parties.
ZANU-PF is currently conducting primary elections in the affected constituencies to determine who will represent it in the polls.From P1
But the elections themselves are in serious doubt as it emerged this week that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), the organ mandated to run all national plebiscites, is bankrupt and has no money needed for the by-elections.
As a result, ZEC, which is at law prohibited from accessing foreign funding and sorely relies on the already heavily strained fiscus, has written to government requesting for an urgent disbursement to allow it to fund the process.
But weeks after the commission made the request to Treasury, ZEC is yet to hear from Finance Minister, Patrick Chinamasa.
ZEC sent its budget to Chinamasa around mid-March (last month) but the Finance Minister, who was not immediately available for comment, has been sitting on it ever since.
ZEC’s measly US$853,700 annual budgetary allocation — which is largely for staff salaries — is not enough to fund a single by-election which requires about US$2 million.
The US$2 million per constituency covers electoral costs such as the preparation of voting material, voter registration, voter education, logistics and payment of allowances for polling officers, among other things.
An estimated US$40 million is required to finance the unbudgeted for by-elections.
But with Zanu(PF) understood to be lining up more expulsions, the figure could significantly increase, giving rise to fears of a serious crisis.
ZEC chairperson, Rita Makarau, said the commission is yet to receive any correspondence from Chinamasa over the funding, suggesting that he was having headaches trying to raise the money.
“We have sent in our budget to the Minister of Finance through our parent ministry (of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs) and we are still waiting for his response,” Makarau said.
Makarau could, however, not disclose how much money ZEC had requested from government to fund the by-elections.
“Talk to the acting chief executive officer Mr (Utoile) Silaigwana. He is the one who has the full details of how much was requested,” she said.
However, Silaigwana could not give any details saying he has been away from work and was yet to be fully briefed.
He then requested for an email to be forwarded to him but had not responded to it by the time of going to print.
“I cannot give you the information off hand. I was out of the country and someone was acting in my capacity (when the request was made). You can send an email so that I will respond after talking to the relevant people,” he said.
To make matters even worse, Treasury is still to release money for the most immediate by-election for Wedza North and was late in disbursing funding for the Mt Darwin West and Chirumhanzu-Zibagwe by-elections held two weeks ago.