Robert Mugabe in a dilemma

THE cash-strapped government is expected to pump out at least US$54 million in funding unbudgeted for by-elections occasioned by the bitter infighting within the main political parties which has since spilled into Parliament, the Financial Gazette can exclusively report.MUGABE WEBIndications are that by-elections would be unavoidable in at least 27 constituencies — the bulk of them in constituencies currently under the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T)’s dominion.

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The figure could rise on account of the war of attrition playing out in ZANU-PF, whereby Members of Parliament perceived to belong to former vice president Joice Mujuru’s faction face an uncertain future.
\nIt is estimated that out of the 160 ZANU-PF MPs and 37 Senators, more than half of them are aligned to the ousted Mujuru.

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The by-elections will inflict further stress on the fiscus which is already struggling to fund salaries for the 230 000 strong civil service.

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Investigations by the Financial Gazette revealed that at least US$2 million is required to run each by-election.

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To fund the 27 by-elections, should the MDC-T succeed to recall 21 of its former MPs who defected from the party, a total of US$54 million would be required.

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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.

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Currently, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has no capacity to meet the costs on its own.n the 2015 National Budget, the commission was only allocated US$853,700, presumably for salaries.

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To make matter worse, Treasury is still to release money for the two most immediate by elections scheduled for March 27.

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ZEC chairperson, Rita Makarau, was evasive on the issue after being contacted for comment yesterday.

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“I wouldn’t comment on that now because I haven’t spoken to Treasury to hear their position. We get all the money from Treasury so I will have to confirm with the Minister of Finance (Patrick Chinamasa) before I can talk about ZEC’s capacity to run the by-elections,” said Makarau.

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“The cost of funding a by-election cannot be the same as that of a general election and we are working to determine that. The two by-elections coming soon will probably best answer that question,” she added.

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Chinamasa was unavailable for comment at the time of going to print.
\nHe is, however, on record saying Treasury was broke.

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He recently disclosed of intentions to amend the new Constitution, which only came into effect in May 2013, in order to trim government’s bloated waistline.

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More than 80 percent of the revenue trickling into government’s purse is going towards recurrent expenditure, leaving very little to fund capital projects.
\nThe skewed expenditure pattern leaves Treasury with very little room to manoeuvre to fund the by-elections.

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In order to fund the by-elections, government might resort to desperate measures as it did in 2013.
\nGovernment had to stitch deals with some of the blue-chip private companies operating in Zimbabwe, including the cash-rich Econet Wireless, to fund the 2013 polls.

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ZEC, which has the mandate to conduct all national elections, is not permitted to receive donor funding, making it sorely reliant on the overburdened Treasury.

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While President Robert Mugabe is happy to further strengthen ZANU-PF’s representation in Parliament to forestall any attempts by MDC-T legislators and pro-Mujuru MPs to impeach him, the excitement has been dampened by the lack of funds to run the by-elections. – FinGaz