Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Begging From Donors

ZEC deputy chairperson Joice Laetitia Kazembe said a full commission meeting this week resolved to go out and engage stakeholders from the civil society to help fund the country’s electoral reforms.

“So far we have only managed to get 11 percent of the funds that were allocated to us in the 2010 national budget and our operations have been stalled because of that. We cannot fully undertake all the duties that we are mandated to do in the current constitution because we lack financial capacity,” said Kazembe.

The 2010 Budget allocated US$ 4, 1 million for ZEC operations for the whole of 2010, under Vote 21 of the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs.  The breakdown of the allocation  however is not set out.

Under the current Constitution, donations or grants from local or foreign sources may be accepted – but only with the consent of then Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs.

Asked about the legal challenges of sourcing money from outside the country, Kazembe said all the necessary government departments will be informed about the commission’s resolution to source financial resources from international donors.

“ZEC is currently understaffed and we have to rely with the human resources within the RG’s (Registrar General) office to undertake most our duties. The compilation and maintenance of the voters’ roll is currently being done by the RG’s office because we do not have the capacity,” said Kazembe adding that ZEC currently employees about 400 workers.

The Registrar General’s office has in most elections been accused of producing a flawed voters roll.

Kazembe said the country’s electoral reforms will not come to fruition if the political leaders do not provide financial support to ZEC.

Kazembe said ZEC would not have problems in holding a referendum if the Constitutional making process eventually takes off.

“For the referendum there will be no need for a voters’ roll but the challenge will be to ensure that every polling station has enough ballot papers. This will be an opportunity for every Zimbabwean to express himself without having to be a registered voter,” she said.

Although ZEC is responsible for conducting elections, there are impediments, both legal and institutional, which seriously limit the Commission’s power to ensure that elections are free and fair.

Civil society organisations including the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) have pointed out that because ZEC cannot time the elections it will be difficult for the commission to guarantee free and fair elections.

According to the Global Political Agreement (GPA) general elections are called by the President with the agreement of the Prime Minister, while parliamentary by-elections have to be called within 14 days after the President notified of a vacancy in Parliament which means that ZEC only has a short time within which to plan and organise elections.